Ashton Kutcher started his acceptance speech for his Teen Choice Award on Sunday night joking that he’s the “old guy.” It was hard to tell whether the audience appreciated the joke since there were so many teenage girls screaming. But the messages Ashton delivered showed he really is wise beyond his years. Perhaps portraying Steve Jobs has rubbed off on him?
It’s a shame that Ashton was interrupted and at first a little distracted by the screams, because his message was from the heart. But in the moments when the girls got quiet, you could tell they were really listening. And he did a good job of getting them to quiet down by building the suspense of the “insider secret” about his real first name (it’s Chris, in case you didn’t hear). It worked, and it helped him launch into his main message with the audience paying more attention.
He presented a refreshing picture of a celebrity life that begins with the kinds of jobs we all do – repairing roofs, washing dishes, cleaning floors – and he says, “I’ve never had a job that I was ‘better than.’ I was always lucky to have a job.” He delivered this in a way that’s completely believable. It’s really the kind of practical advice that regular people pass down to their kids, and it’s the perfect approach to take for this event. Ashton also really understands that to get teenagers to listen to your advice, you have to be very real with them. You can’t talk down to them and you need to really believe in what you’re saying. When he got to his main point about never acting like you’re “better than” your job, he raised his voice and gesticulated, showing unfiltered passion that added emphasis and gravity. His authenticity really grabbed me.
What Ashton did next was quite smart; he addressed the teenagers on their level, saying he’s going to give advice about “being sexy,” but he elevated the audience’s focus by turning that concept on its head. He said, in clear language that any teenager will get, that “the sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart, and being thoughtful and being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you.” This elicited one of the loudest cheers in the whole speech, which is heartening to see from teenagers, let alone grown adults!
Finally, Ashton mentioned learning something from his role as Steve Jobs in the upcoming biopic. He referenced a quote that Jobs said in 1994 that talks about growing up in a world that tells you to accept things as they are. Ashton recited much of the quote:
Life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing, and that’s that everything around us that we call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you.
Ashton enthusiastically closed his speech by repeating his points: “Build a life. Don’t live one, build one. Find your opportunities, and always be sexy.”
Ashton fit into four minutes what most senior executives would take 30 minutes to articulate. His goofy, Dude, Where’s My Car? demeanor has morphed into self-deprecating humor, intelligence and authenticity that make him a very engaging speaker.