I was fourteen. I hated reading, period.
With the exception of a couple chapters of the book Ender’s Game, I can’t recall ever finishing any of the required reading in school. I was twelve when I bought my favorite WWF wrestler Mankind’s autobiography. I told all my friends that I finished that, but if we’re honest, I probably only read three chapters.
I just couldn’t do it. I was much more interested in writing riffs on my guitar.
When you’re 14, you’re still at the mercy of your parents driving you around most of the time. You have to tag along mindlessly while your mom runs her errands. Pretty lame, right? But not always. One afternoon my sister needed a book for school, and I wanted to browse new CDs (when did I not want to browse new CDs?). So my mom drove us to a local bookstore.
I flipped through a few best sellers, and I checked all of out the magazines. Then I noticed a bold non-fiction book with a shiny foil cover. The giant money bag sticker read, “Autographed by Gene Simmons!” The title was killer. “Sex, Money, KISS.”
I had never been a KISS fan. I was into “real” metal, shit like Korn, Mudvayne, Slipknot, all that. This was my early teenage years, so you have to cut me some slack. To be honest, I didn’t even like Gene Simmons! To me, he was just some has-been rocker who didn’t get the memo that his time was up. He kept plugging along, make-up and all, year after year, releasing more and more music, toys, movies, books, you name it. I didn’t have an appreciation for it then, but I do now. Gene built one of the most recognizable brands in the world. But still, is strikes me as odd that I left that store with that book.
My Mom noticed when I picked up that book. At first I was going to put it back. I thought it would be another waste of time, but she didn’t agree. She also didn’t seem to mind the content or title at all. “If you want it get it.” Maybe she thought this would make her the “Cool mom.” Or, maybe she just thought “OMG, he’s actually showing some interest in a real book! He might still be employable!”
I was now the owner of a signed Gene Simmons book, which is pretty bad ass I think. I also read it every day during my study hall class. I have to thank him for that experience. It’s nice to know that you aren’t dumb or something, you know?
I always hated reading because the content didn’t feel like it was meant for me. How can you love something you’re forced to do? But Gene’s stories and lessons were exciting and powerful. I started to view my life differently, with more discipline, more focus. I started to believe that if I busted my ass and stayed out of trouble I could do something big. I just needed to pay my dues, learn the ropes of business, save whatever cash I could, avoid losers and loser mindsets, and leverage every opportunity that came my way. That’s the golden formula, even today.
Who knew reading could be so fun and useful? It’s amazing to me still. Study hall began to feel like Christmas. I guess that’s how I still view education today, as a gift. Discovering cool books, great podcasts and new ideas is a thrill and a privilege. That started with KISS and that tacky foil book.
Discovering cool books, great podcasts and new ideas is a thrill and a privilege. That started with KISS and that tacky foil book.
I didn’t pick that book up again until I was 27 years old. We had just finished podcasting with the Underground Strength Coach, Zach Even-Esh. I couldn’t believe it when he recommend that book to us. “Bro! You gotta read Sex, Money, KISS! by Gene Simmons. I know that sounds weird, but trust me dude, you’ll love it!”
As usual, Zach was 100% right.
I’ve been thinking back over my life since I read the book. I don’t want to make too much out of it, but I think the experience put me on a different path. It motivated me to be something else. I wasn’t just a bored student who hated to read. I wasn’t some kid who loved guitar, but couldn’t do anything with it other than burn time. No, Gene taught me that I could be a business man. I just needed to work and sacrifice for it.
Gene didn’t drink. He didn’t do drugs. He hustled. So I didn’t drink, or do drugs. And ever since I’ve been working to duplicate that KISS style work ethic.
In every band I was in since the age of 14 I was never JUST the guitar player. Nah, I spent every hour laser focused on all the odds and ends that go with being in a band. The logos, the websites, the recordings, the flyers, the banner ads, the merchandise, the album covers, booking shows, promotion, you name it, I was on it. It was some total KISS shit. Without a doubt, that came from being inspired by Gene.
Sometimes I wonder if I missed out during high school by not drinking and partying. Maybe I did…Alright, I’m sure I missed out on something cool. But it would have just been a temporary good time. I’m happy for the delayed the gratification. Unconsciously mimicking Gene’s work ethic laid a foundation for the extreme hustle required to produce Barbell Shrugged. It also saved me from a life of working for someone else.
This book is fun, funny, and timeless. Gene has a way of teaching through story that only Gene f’n Simmons could pull off. Go get the book. If reading isn’t your thing, then check out the Audible version. Gene reads the book himself, which is priceless. I can’t recommend it enough.
Gene will be releasing his newest book Me, Inc. tomorrow Oct 21. I have full faith that it will also kick ass. It might just be my next big lesson in business and life.
Thanks, Gene. You’re the f*cking man!