This month marks the twentieth anniversary of Baz Luhrmann’s surprise hit “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” cracking the Billboard Top 40. If the song’s title doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps its opening line will spark your memory:
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99, wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense that advice now…
“The Sunscreen Song” is more of an essay read to music than it is a song. Luhrmann cleverly laid a bed of inspirational music beneath spoken words—none of which rhyme in any sort of traditional lyrical sense.
Incidentally, the words weren’t written by Luhrmann. They were taken from a hypothetical commencement speech published in the Chicago Tribune several years earlier, in which columnist Mary Schmich offered a variety of life advice, ranging from how to find happiness to how to avoid regret.
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.
Schmich later explained in a Washington Post article that the idea for her column came while strolling along Lake Michigan and seeing a girl sunbathing. Schmich thought to herself, “I hope she’s wearing sunscreen”—something Schmich failed to do in her youth. That thought led her to consider what other life advice she could offer younger generations.
Before Schmich’s words made their way into a hit song, they wormed their way through email inboxes in the form of a message falsely claiming to be a transcript of author Kurt Vonnegut’s MIT commencement speech. (Yes, as unfathomable as it is, before Facebook and Snapchat, forwarded emails were how internet hoaxes were perpetrated!)
Baz Luhrmann received the forwarded email. So did I. Twenty years later, the words still resonate with me. I value everything they advise. But I wonder…
Does anyone ever regret wearing sunscreen?
I’ve heard plenty of people regret not wearing sunscreen, but I’ve never actually heard of someone regret wearing it.
After a long afternoon on the beach, or sitting in the bleachers at a ball game, baking in the sun, regret is sure to find you. When you see your lobster-esque image in the mirror and you feel the sting on your skin later that evening, one thought will most assuredly enter your mind: “I should have used more sunscreen.”
Aging beauties inspecting their wrinkled, sun-damaged skin have had the same thought.
Yet if we lather up with sunscreen and it turns out to be a rather bland, overcast day, we don’t regret putting on sunscreen. We never think, “I wish I hadn’t used so much sunscreen.”
No, no one ever regrets wearing sunscreen. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Wearing sunscreen is the perfect analogy for being a good teammate. Plenty of people look back on life and regret not being a better teammate. No one, however, ever looks back on life and thinks, “I wish I hadn’t been such a good teammate.”
Choosing to be a good teammate is an endeavor that leads to self-satisfaction. Inner peace is found in knowing that you gave your best effort and that you unselfishly made choices that were best for your team.
Every once in a while, I will cross paths with someone who feels underappreciated and resents the sacrifices they’ve made for their team. They have fallen victim to a short sided-perspective, and their misguided frustrations have caused them to become bitter.
Whenever this happens, I ask them to reflect on the possibility that they may not have been as good of a teammate as they thought they were. Maybe they didn’t do everything they could have done to truly be a good teammate.
If they didn’t, then it’s an opportunity to reexamine their choices and make different ones going forward.
If they did, then it’s time to let it go and move on. They need to find contentment in knowing they did their best for their team, even if the other members of their team didn’t recognize and understand what was done. The path to fulfillment lies in being a good teammate.
On that note, here’s my advice to the ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’19: Be good teammates.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.