A Star Is Born

I was not prepared for “A Star Is Born”.

Sure, I’d seen the previous version from the 1970s starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand so I probably should have known what to expect. But that was a long time ago and, somehow, I had blocked out some of the very important details.

See, I thought it was going to go like this: Jackson Maine, whose star is beginning to fade, by chance comes across the mega-talented Ally who is undiscovered and with no real prospects. While they fall in love, Jackson helps Ally become a success by collaborating with her and exposing her to all the right people. As Ally sees her star rise, Jackson becomes envious as he’s no longer the reliable hit-maker he used to be. And while this is a strain in their relationship – and it looks like it might go off the rails – they realize their love for each other is more important than any show biz success and they live happily ever after, getting on the other side of the tumult that destroys so many celebrity relationships.

The end. Cue the hit song. Roll the credits. Kiss your wife. Go home.

{SPOILER ALERT} It did not go that way.

And while I’m not going to get into the twists and turns I did not account for nor my strong desire for every movie to have a Hollywood ending, I do want to discuss an aspect of the film that I believe can influence your coaching and, dare I say, all the relationships in your life.

Because while I did see “Star” in theaters (no easy feat when you are parents to a young child), I didn’t see it right when it came out. In fact it was probably in theaters for a good six weeks before my wife and I managed that ever-elusive triad of securing a babysitter, not having any additional family obligations and no one getting sick and blowing the whole thing up last minute.

And since it was out for a while I got to hear a lot of feedback about the movie from fellow trainers and clients who saw it the minute it came out. And one thing was abundantly clear.

Women LOVED Bradley Cooper in this movie.

They didn’t love him like you might love, say,  Dustin Hoffman for his subtly painful performance as the Dad in Kramer vs. Kramer or how you love Meryl Streep for perfectly nailing the role of the intimidating magazine editor in The Devil Wears Prada.

Nope. They loved the look, the voice, the persona, the physical vessel of Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine. This was “I’ll leave my job, my dog and my 401k for Bradley Cooper”-type love.

This wasn’t super surprising to me. Bradley Cooper is one of our most handsome and charming actors. Take a guy with those good looks, give him a rugged cowboy make-over and  have him play a convincing, soul-bearing singer and, KABOOM!, you have the perfect recipe for tongue-wagging, pants-dropping infatuation.

So when the first glimpse of Cooper on screen was of a scraggly, red-faced drunk – gin literally dripping from his beard – I was a bit surprised that this was the subject of all this adoration.

I mean, sure, he was still handsome and rugged. And there are no shortage of people out there who love the challenge of a relationship with someone who needs to be fixed. But the way everyone was, pardon the pun, ga-ga over Cooper I was expecting to witness the love child of Elvis and Jesus up on the big screen and Jackson Maine wasn’t it.

Through about half of the movie I’m trying to figure out this conundrum when we come upon the scene where Ally, now firmly on the road to superstardom, and Jack step out on a terrace overlooking a giant billboard of Ally’s face. There’s great chemistry and dialogue in the moment and a really funny quip about Jack’s love of Ally’s nose and the entire thing is really wonderful. And it was at that moment that it became perfectly clear as to why every female moviegoer I spoke to fell in love with Bradley Cooper.

It’s because he sees Ally.

When she was a waitress who moonlighted as a cabaret singer. When he first pulled her on stage to sing a song they magically co-wrote in the parking lot of an all-night convenience store. We she’s the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. And even when he’s too drunk not to piss himself on stage when she wins a Grammy Award.

Jackson Maine sees through the insecurities and the aspirations and the choreography and the great songs and the bad songs and beyond every superficial detail that we all get hung up on in ourselves and sees Ally’s true self. And I believe we’ll fall in love with anyone who sees past the bullshit and sees us for our true selves. Particularly if we are articulate enough to use our words and let the other person know that we see them.

There is a now well-worn quote about training that says “training does make your character, it reveals it.”

That is the meathead version of “A Star Is Born”. That, through training, we will peel back all the bullshit layers and see ourselves and allow others to see us for who we are. When you are struggling and breathing and dying and there is nowhere to hide.

And that is part of the magic of great coaching. When it clicks you essentially get to help your clients smooth out an old piece of paper they’ve kept in their back pocket filled with their memories, goals, desires and vulnerabilities and see them for who they truly are.  It is why so many people have such a loyal relationship with their coach – sadly we just don’t get to reveal ourselves and be witnessed like that in very many aspects of life.

When I was a kid one of my favorite Billy Joel songs was “Just The Way You Are”. I still think it’s one of his best.

In it he sings, “Don’t imagine you’re too familiar and I don’t see you anymore”. That line always through me off. What does he mean? Is she invisible? It’s not too hard to confuse a 9 year-old brain.

But now, in a song full of nostalgia (my fav!) it’s become the most impactful line.

It doesn’t matter how many times I sit across from you at dinner or see you get out of bed or just recap yesterday’s events over morning coffee, Even through all of the daily mundane, I still see you and your character and your dreams and the things that make you uniquely you. That’s some powerful shit right there.

But whether it’s through Cooper’s acting or Billy’s writing, one thing has become abundantly clear, whether it’s with your boyfriend or kids or your clients, it’s worth taking the time and effort and patience to see people for who they actually are.

It will make them fall in love with you like nothing else.