Paul grew up in a tough city, and was known to get into trouble at school. At age 14, he had a tragic family experience that rocked his world. His grandfather had died, but while Paul’s family was attending the funeral, his mother suffered a brain aneurysm and she died as well. This was more than a young boy could take, and he fell into a severe state of depression.
Paul’s father struggled to raise his son alone as he dealt with his own sense of loss. He became so bitter that he would often convey to Paul that he shouldn’t even bother having dreams because they would only lead to disappointment. Strangely, his father’s negative outlook on life had the opposite effect on Paul. Seeing his father in such a state stirred Paul’s ambitions, drew him out of his depression, and fueled his desire to begin dreaming… big.
Paul escaped the pessimistic atmosphere of his home by hanging out with his friends on the street corner. They formed a little gang and gave each other nicknames; anything to separate themselves from their given names and home lives. One was called “Goose,” and another went by “Strongman.” One friend’s face was so sharp and angular that they called him “Edge,” and Paul’s nickname was a joke on the Latin term for “good voice.”
At 16, Paul saw an ad that his classmate Larry posted at school. Larry was looking to put together a band to play cover songs from groups like the Rolling Stones. Showing up to audition along with a few of his friends, Paul said he could play guitar, but during the tryout it became obvious he couldn’t. None of the kids had much talent, and really, they were just looking to get off the streets and do something fun. They decided to let Paul sing, though at first he really wasn’t very good at that either.
It didn’t take long for the bandmates to get better and for Paul to find his voice. He learned to sing with such passion that his nickname ceased to be a joke. “Good Voice” in Latin translates to “Bonovox,” which his friends later shortened to simply Bono. The band evolved to become U2, and, in a few short years, Paul went from a scrappy kid growing up in northern Dublin to lead singer of the most famous band ever to come out of Ireland.
Bono married his high school girlfriend at 22, and they took a mission trip to Africa a few years later, where they spent a month in Ethiopia doing charity work. He had really long hair at the time, and the Ethiopian kids would call him, “the girl with the beard.” Finally, when he was preparing to leave the country, a man approached him and asked if Bono would take his baby back to Ireland to live with him. He pleaded that the baby had a greater chance of survival anywhere else. Unable to take someone else’s baby, Bono said no, but the experience affected him deeply. He reflected on the plight of the people in Africa, and became determined that a person’s living or dying should not be decided by where that person lives in the world.
Bono decided to trade his currency as a celebrity to become a humanitarian. Over the last 25 years, Bono has used his ‘good voice’ for a greater cause, embracing the Live to Give mindset and impacting cultures and causes all over the world. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize three times, was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, was knighted by the Queen, and in 2005 was awarded “one wish to change the world” by the TED organization.
Bono continued to follow his passions as well. In addition to being awarded more than 22 Grammy awards and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, U2 recently earned a Golden Globe and an Oscar Nomination for their original song, Ordinary Love, in honor of Nelson Mandela. Reportedly, Mandela was able to hear the song a week before he died.
One person has the power to do a lot of good. First step: Become empowered. Second step: Empower others. Ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do today to ensure I’m pursuing my passions and on my way to living my dreams? What’s the one thing I can do today to make a difference in the lives of others?” It’s time to find your voice and sing.
Until next week…
Live Your Dreams,