Key Takeaways from Three-and-a-Half Hours with Henry Rollins

Today we close our quick, two-part series on takeaways from Authority Rainmaker by focusing on the lessons learned by listening to Henry Rollins. Rollins, of course, gave the closing keynote at Authority Rainmaker. He then spoke at Boulder Theater the next night. Jerod was in attendance for both.

In this episode, Jerod and Demian recount their first Rollins live experiences and share what stood out most:

  • What made Henry Rollins such a perfect choice for the Authority Rainmaker closing keynote — whether people realized it beforehand or not
  • Why Henry Rollins is, much to Demian’s chagrin, a perfect embodiment of “choose yourself.”
  • Jerod’s impressions of two-and-a-half more hours of Rollins the next night in Boulder
  • The importance of placing periods and exclamation points at end of your plans — not question marks.
  • How Henry Rollins is, in his own words, like a frozen yogurt machine.
  • Demian’s two favorite quotes from Rollins’ closing keynote
  • Why Henry Rollins’ example is one to follow for anyone who wants to build an authentic, long-term connection with an audience
  • How Rollins prepares for each presentation

And then Demian ends the episode with … a poem about skinny jeans? You’ll just have to listen to find out the connection.


The Show Notes



Key Takeaways from Three-and-a-Half Hours with Henry Rollins

Jerod Morris: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Demian Farnworth: “How do you walk in these things?” I wonder, and tip my hat to your squishy butt walking miles, backdoor advertising like that.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media that is hosted by me, Jerod Morris, one of the VPs of Rainmaker.FM, and Demian Farnworth, Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media.

Last week, we began a quick two-part series with our takeaways from Authority Rainmaker. Authority Rainmaker, as you probably know, happened back on May 13th through the 15th. Last week, Demian and I went through presentation by presentation and gave you kind of one key takeaway or more from each of the presenters.

Today, we have saved the best for last. The closing keynote at Authority Rainmaker was Henry Rollins, and Damien and I dedicate this episode to the takeaways that we got from Henry Rollins’ closing keynote, as well as his spoken-word performance the following night in Boulder, which I was fortunate enough to go to and picked up a lot more takeaways from as well. So I just wanted to share that experience with you.

When this episode is over, next week, we’ll get back into the content syndication series that we began a couple of weeks back with the episode on Medium. Just a little housekeeping there, but that’s what we are planning.

Real quick, before we jump into the discussion that I had with Demian about Henry Rollins, The Lede is, of course, brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. The Rainmaker Platform has new pro features: the Learning Management System, marketing automation all ready to go with the podcasting features, the landing page features, the design features, the membership features and everything else that makes the Rainmaker Platform the complete solution for online marketers and online business owners.

Go check it out for yourself — You can still get a 14-day free trial. You’ve got two full weeks to test it out, see if you like it, and see if it’s the right fit for you. Go to, and hop on that 14-day free trial.

With that said, let’s move right along now with this episode of The Lede. Here is my conversation with Demian Farnworth about the great Henry Rollins.

On last week’s episode of The Lede, we talked about Authority Rainmaker, and we went presentation by presentation. We gave you some quick bits, a few key takeaways from the conference, and we left out one notable presentation, which was that of Henry Rollins, the closing keynote.

As I told some people, one of my personal frustrations with Authority Rainmaker as we went through the promotion process and the marketing process of the conference is that a lot of people were like me when Henry was first announced. They didn’t necessarily know who he was. I mean, obviously people of Brian Clark’s age grew up listening to Henry Rollins playing for Black Flag.

Demian Farnworth: What does that mean?

What Made Henry Rollins Such a Perfect Choice for the Authority Rainmaker Closing Keynote — Whether People Realized It Beforehand or Not

Jerod Morris: Just the generation before mine. I think Henry Rollins was a big part of them growing up, and they understood what he would be able to teach and inspire as far as DIY and his attitude. I just wasn’t that familiar with Henry, but as I listened to the interview that he did with Brian on New Rainmaker and read The Writer Files and started to learn more about him, I realized that he was every bit as perfect a keynote speaker for this conference as Seth Godin was at last year’s.

Now, obviously, there is a disconnect there, because everybody in our audience knows Seth Godin and knows what he brings to the table. That was a huge draw. I think a lot of people knew what Henry Rollins was going to bring to the table, but a lot of people didn’t. I think that made for a bit of a frustration in terms of marketing, in trying to get people to understand exactly how great he was going to be as a closing keynote. There is also that excitement about how many people were — like me — going to discover him for the first time and be empowered by his words and his attitudes and his energy for the first time.

I think that’s exactly what happened, because that keynote presentation that he closed with was phenomenal. It’s impossible, obviously, to try and describe it in words that put you in the room, but it was 60 minutes. A lot of speakers like me and like other folks, we pace a little nervously around the stage, and there is not always a purpose for our movement.

Henry Rollins put his two feet down in the center of that stage and barely moved. It’s a sign of someone who is so confident in what he’s going to say, so committed to the ideas he’s going to express, and so practiced in the stories he’s going to tell that there is just a firmness from his body all the way to his voice that just enthralls you.

Why Henry Rollins Is, Much to Demian’s Chagrin, a Perfect Embodiment of “Choose Yourself”

Demian Farnworth: He told us about his history with Black Flag and how their DIY mindset allowed them to overcome people trying to knock them down and not let them in. All I could think about is — I don’t want to bring this up to be funny — we talked about this idea of ‘choosing yourself.’ I couldn’t help but think as Henry was talking, Demian, that you talk about the ultimate person choosing himself and choosing himself with a couple of middle fingers up in the air, that’s Henry Rollins. But that’s what they had to do to get their music out there and to connect with their audience.

Demian Farnworth: I don’t want to break your train of thought, but I got to ask a question. One of the things that I noticed that didn’t occur to me until afterwards, but it’s in the vein of what you are saying, is how he just planted himself up there. He was the only speaker who did not use slides at all.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, nor did he use a confidence monitor either. It was all straight from memory.

Demian Farnworth: A confidence monitor is that thing that you guys see that we don’t see that shows you the slides, right?

Jerod Morris: Right, exactly.

Demian Farnworth: It helps you if you get lost. You just look at that, and that’s what Chris Brogan was looking at and thinking, “Okay, I don’t need to talk about that.”

That was a thing that struck me. Like you said, he planted himself, and he spoke. The thing was, he didn’t need the slides. I think that is such a beautiful sign of a great speaker. Not to take anything away from some of the speakers, because some of the slides were helpful in the sense of showing you data or a visual that helps bring a point home. Henry was so incredibly forceful and charismatic about what he was saying that you were not going to take your eyes off of him.

I was a wee bit jealous, too, that you got to see him again on Saturday night.

Jerod Morris: I did. Heather and I decided to stay over a couple of days after the conference.

Demian Farnworth: Heather was there?

Jerod Morris: Heather flew in Friday night, yeah. She got there real late Friday night.

Demian Farnworth: Oh.

Jerod’s Impressions of Two-and-a-Half More Hours of Rollins the Next Night in Boulder

Jerod Morris: We left early Saturday morning, and we went to Boulder, and we were just going to walk around Pearl Street. So we parked, and I turn around, and we happened to park by the Boulder Theater. I knew that he was going to be in Boulder, but it hadn’t really dawned on me. I turn around, and there on the marquee, it says ‘Henry Rollins.’ I had just spent pretty much the whole half-hour drive there talking to Heather about how great it was. She’s basically like, “Okay, well we have to go see this,” because she wanted to see what it was all about.

We went back that night, and I believe we were in there for two-and-a-half hours. Demian, I am not kidding you, when he wrapped up, I thought it had been an hour. You know how sometimes you go to a movie or something it just drags on and on?

Demian Farnworth: Did he repeat himself at all?

Jerod Morris: Not really. No, and I thought he might. I think there were a couple stories that were similar, but they were tailored to the audience. Probably the coolest moment was at the beginning when he talked about how the night before he had obviously been at a conference and mentioned Copyblogger by name, which had to be the coolest moment ever for Brian Clark to hear.

Demian Farnworth: I don’t know if you saw that, but he Tweeted that out when that happened.

The Importance of Placing Periods and Exclamation Points at End of Your Plans — Not Question Marks

Jerod Morris: Here is the thing. My biggest takeaway, and there were a lot of takeaways, but the biggest takeaway that I got from those two-and-a-half hours, the 60 minutes that I listened to him during the closing keynote, and then the 90 minutes to two hours after his keynote when he stood there answering every question, taking every picture with anybody who wanted to until there was nobody left, was that this is just a man who doesn’t make excuses.

He channels this almost uncontrollable energy that he has — which a lot of times comes out in fury and anger as he even admits — he channels it into work. He simply doesn’t make excuses.

When there is something to be done, he puts a period or an exclamation point at the end of the sentence, not a question mark, and he does it. He admits he probably has a screw or two loose. He’s not the easiest person to work with. He’s not what you would call a well-adjusted individual, but he gets so much done. When he commits to something, he does it.

How Henry Rollins Is, in His Own Words, Like a Frozen Yogurt Machine

Demian Farnworth: I’ve got a lot of quotes that I Tweeted, and I’ll share those. But the one that you are talking about, he said, “I want to be an output machine like frozen yogurt.”

Jerod Morris: Yeah, that’s right.

Demian Farnworth: Tell us what he meant by that.

Jerod Morris: Well, he just wants to keep doing things one after another. I think he’s not the type of person, clearly, who’s going to rest on his laurels and think, “Okay, I did that, and that was successful.” He’s ready to move on to the next thing and constantly be working, constantly be doing something else, challenging himself, travelling.

Again, could you replicate his life with a family and kids and working for someone else? No. It’s not like you could do everything he’s talking about. But that basic idea of, you say you are going to do something, you plant that period at the end of it, and you just do it. You don’t make excuses, you just do it.

That’s why I went back, before we left Boulder, to the Boulder Theater and asked them if there was a way that I could get a printout of the poster. I considered the irony of going around to one of the little pegboards along Pearl Street where they hang up the musician posters and tearing his poster down and taking it home with me.

Demian Farnworth: You should have.

Jerod Morris: I couldn’t find any. I was going to do it, but I couldn’t find any. They printed me one out at the Boulder Theater because I want to frame and hang it up in my office. Because any time you get ready to make an excuse and you say, “Well, maybe I can’t do this,” you start hemming and hawing — it’s like, “No. Period at the end of that sentence. Let’s just get it done.”

Demian’s Two Favorite Quotes from Rollins’ Closing Keynote

Demian Farnworth: He said, “I am DIY like a street fight.” He told us about his early days with Black Flag and that work ethic that he had to develop. I love that quote, because it reminds me of a quote from Jack White on that documentary It Might Get Loud where Jack White is talking to a younger himself, and they’re playing guitar. He says, “You have to fight the guitar, and you have to win.”

I love that advice, because it’s sort of like before you’re about to get in your first fight in the empty lot, and your big brother says, “You’re going to have to fight, and you are going to have to win.” Because if he just said, “You are going to have to fight,” it’s like “Okay, get in there and get a few punches in,” and it’s over.

You need to come out on top. That was the energy that Henry poured into everything that he faced, the odds that he had because he refused the traditional publishing route. It’s debatable whether he would even — before, in the early days — have gotten any traction with that. It’s not until recently that he’s gotten noticed, but he still maintains that.

The other quote he said was, “Be bold to the point of being savage,” and again, this is all the Rollins ethic, this idea of being almost savage in your pursuit and not giving up. You want something to do, you want something to get done, you are going to have to be savage about getting it done because it’s not going to be handed to you. Again, as you said, choose yourself — it’s not going to be handed to you.

Jerod Morris: It’s interesting, because as Henry tells the stories, he’s the guy who notoriously got in fights back in the Black Flag days. He tells a story about basically going in and stealing time at a record studio, sneaking in after hours. He talks about how now, as an older man looking back on that, he would not recommend that course of action to younger people. What he says is that throughout his life, even when he was younger, he just did what he thought was the right thing to do. That doesn’t necessarily mean the selfish thing, but obviously, when you are younger, you think in more immature, immediate-gratification type ways.

Why Henry Rollins’ Example Is One to Follow for Anyone Who Wants to Build an Authentic, Long-Term Connection with an Audience

Jerod Morris: You get this theme from him that throughout his life, he makes the choice in the moment that is the best one. It’s not just to serve himself, because the other thing you get from him is that this is a man who is a great example of being audience-focused.

He started out the closing keynote and his talk at the Boulder Theater the same way, basically talking about how he’s terrified of the audience — not terrified in the way that he was in the Black Flag days when people used to come up and put cigarettes out on his shins, but terrified of letting the audience down. That’s just the thing that he couldn’t fathom, letting the audience down. He prefaces like that, and you know that you are going to get all the energy possible from him, and then again, he backs it up with action.

A lot of speakers don’t hang around after they talk — and not that they have to — and some people are in for a few hours and they have to go, so that’s not really to compare him to other people. After his presentation, he could have left and everybody would have loved it and been enthralled, but again he stayed there and talked with everybody.

I had a question that I wanted to ask him about how he prepares for a presentation, which I’ll share here in a minute, but he stood there. It was funny, because that night, we had the after party. The event itself was great, and I got the opportunity to talk with so many people in the audience, people who listen to The Lede, who listen to The Showrunner.

It was about 9:00, and I started thinking, “Oh man, I’m tired. It’s been a long couple of days. I really should just go home.” There were a couple people who had a couple questions for me. I thought, “What the hell is wrong me?” Henry Rollins can stand out there and talk with everybody until … He would have done it until 2:00 in the morning. I have the great privilege of getting a chance to answer these questions for these people who are waiting here to talk to me, and all I can think about is wanting to go to bed. Having an example like that of Henry Rollins, a guy who doesn’t need to do it but still does, that’s the thing.

The reason he’s in the position he is and why people love him so much is because he has been like that and been so focused on the audience. It was a great lesson about if you want to build an audience and do something remarkable for an audience, then treat them remarkably, which is how he treats his audience. I think that’s why the affection grows so strong between Henry and the people he is talking to and entertaining.

Demian Farnworth: The moral of the story is, if you get a chance to see Henry speak live, do it. I was thinking about this too, it’s like Henry Rollins in some sense, is like the Zig Ziglar of the punk DIY world. He’s a motivational speaker, but he speaks in that language.

Jerod, that was a fabulous speaking time. He did great. I loved hearing him. Any other thoughts about Henry Rollins and Authority Rainmaker?

How Rollins Prepares for Each Presentation

Jerod Morris: He’s just confidently telling these stories in such rich, vivid detail. It’s not like he’s stopping to go, “Uhm, what happened next?” It is detail after detail, almost like he’s reading a script, but he’s not. I don’t know about you, but when I watch someone present like that, for some reason, my immediate thought is, “Wow, what a natural gifted storyteller this person is. He probably didn’t prepare at all for this, it’s just so natural,” which of course is the silliest thing in the world to think.

Anybody who has prepared for a presentation understands how much preparation goes into doing it well. I asked him about how he prepares, and he basically said, “It is just repetition upon repetition.” He has, obviously, his catalogue of stories, but he tailors it to each audience, what the presentation is going to be. He knew that the DIY stories for our audience would work a lot better than some of the stories that he told on Saturday night, so he set up a schedule of those stories and practiced them over and over.

Wednesday night before my presentation, I was pacing around my hotel room. My friends on Fitbit were like, “How many steps do you have?” I was like “Yeah, 26,000,” because it was all just like pacing around doing the presentation. For some reason, I’ll think a lot of times, “Well I’m behind these other presenters, and I just have to prepare more because I haven’t done it that much.”

That’s so silly, because anybody who is going to do it well has to prepare, and that’s what he said. It’s a lot of walking around, saying the stories out loud so that he said them over and over again. He talked about how where he lives in California, he’ll go and park and walk up and down the beach, saying the stories out loud to himself, and people look at him like he’s crazy.

It’s not like you reach this level of success, and then you can stop working so hard or you can slack off a little bit. I’m sure he prepares just as hard now and just as intensely now as he ever has, and it shows. You don’t get to deliver that impressive of a presentation with that kind of impact and that kind of cadence and how natural it seemed without putting in a lot of work.

Demian Farnworth: I have to confess, after seeing him, I was like, “You know what? That almost makes me want to be a speaker in a sense.” If I was to be one I’d want to be a Henry Rollins speaker, like him.

Jerod Morris: Why don’t you do it? Put a period at the end of that.

Demian Farnworth: Okay, we’ll get through the podcasting first.

Jerod Morris: That’s right, but it was great. And you are right — if you ever get the chance to see him, see him. I was not familiar with him at all.

There is a post I’m going to link to also in the show notes. It’s called ’The Iron.’ A lot of people have probably seen this, and I had actually seen this post before, but it talks about his relationship with weightlifting and how it was such an important part of him developing a self-identity early on. It’s brilliant. Whether you are a weightlifter or not, it’s brilliant.

He’s a man whose ideas will infuse you with empowerment and inspiration, and they’ll become a little voice in your head that won’t accept excuses anymore, even when you want to give them. That’s a powerful person to be for other people.

Demian Farnworth: That’s right.

Jerod Morris: Henry Rollins. He’s great.

Demian Farnworth: Yeah, absolutely. Anything else?

Jerod Morris: That’s all I had. It was a good conference, a fun conference.

Demian Farnworth: Yeah. Let’s close on this. Friday night we went out to dinner with Pamela, a bunch of people. We were walking back — me, Pamela, another gal named Maria, who I think was friends of Sonia. On the corner, there were two gals with little tables, and typewriters on top of these little tables, just piping away on cigarettes. They were like, “Pick a topic, and we’ll write a poem for you.” I was like, “We’ve got to do this.” I stopped, and they said, “I need a topic,” and this gal, she is just chain-smoking, and she looks just like a ‘50s writer. I’m like, “Okay, topic, topic, topic — skinny jeans.”

I’m going to close by reading the poem that she wrote me on skinny jeans. Can I do that?

Jerod Morris: Absolutely. The floor is yours.

Demian Farnworth: Would that be appropriate? Okay, so this gal’s name is Abigail Mott.

Skinny jeans, in awe
Toothpick legs, all shimmied, no sweat.
Blue seams, running jet sets,
“How do you walk in these things?” I wonder and tip my hat
To your squishy butt, walking miles, backdoor advertising like that.
Who needs tights, when you have skinny jeans to lop off one leggy leg at a time?

That was my little on-the-spot right there from Abigail Mott. Thank you Abigail, thank you Denver, thank you Henry Rollins, and thank you Jerod Morris.

Jerod Morris: Thank you, Demian Farnworth, and thank you, listener, for sharing this episode with us and the last episode as well. It’s fun for us to be able to share our experiences from Denver.

Demian Farnworth: That’s right. Now we are back on to our little content syndication series.

Jerod Morris: That’s right. Yeah, we’ll resume that series next week.

Demian Farnworth: All right, buddy. Good talking to you, man.

Jerod Morris: Beautiful. I miss you already, Demian.

Demian Farnworth: Oh, I need a tissue. See you, Jerod.

Jerod Morris: Bye man, bye. Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of The Lede. We always appreciate it, and we will be right back here next week with another brand new episode for you.

One quick request before you go. If you’ve been listening to the show, if you enjoy it, if you are learning a lot from these episodes, we would greatly appreciate a rating or a review on iTunes. If you could do that for us, that would be wonderful, and then we’d love for you to send us a Tweet after that: @jerodmorris, @demianfarnworth. Let us know what you think of the show. We always appreciate your feedback. All right, everybody. Thanks again for listening. We will talk to you next week.