The Bojack Horseman Journal....Chapter #1 by BoJack Horseman
What is a legacy? And what does it mean to live purposefully? These are questions all of us struggle with — whatever path our lives take, we want to make sure that what we do has meaning, weight and value. Sometimes that shows up in how we treat others, other times it shows up in the work we do, and still other times it appears as the activities and hobbies we engage in. Today we’re going to tackle what it means to make an impact in life by coaching a very special guest. He’s an actor, a stand-up comedian, the subject of a bestselling memoir and a serial TV star… and now, he’s come to us for help.
Our journal-ee today is the one — the only — Oscar-nominated actor Bojack Horseman, whose titular roles in titles such as Horsin’ Around and award-winning drama Secretariat have helped him garner international fame. Despite his outward success, Bojack reached out to us because he is ultimately unfulfilled in his personal and professional life. Bojack believes every one of his accomplishments so far have yet to contribute to his legacy, and as a result he feels misunderstood and detached from his values.
Today we’re going to try and unpack Bojack’s struggles in order to help him have more authentic, meaningful day-to-day interactions. Bojack has written to The Journal That Talks Back in order to get clarity around his situation — together, we’re going to read and react to Horseman’s relationships with fame, legacy, identity and more. Let’s start by reading Bojack’s first journal entry to us, and then we can work to help him move forward with his life in a way that feels purposeful and fulfilling.
BoJack’s First Journal entry
“BoJack, writing a journal. Here’s BoJack writing a journal. Journaling….NOW! Ok, BoJack Journaling…GO! (Sigh). I guess I can’t even do this whole journaling thing well. You know, I was an actor from a very famous TV show…but not much has happened since. Sure, I got nominated for an Oscar for my role where I played my hero, Secretariat, but that wasn’t even me. It was a CGI version of me. And that CGI me was PRETTY good, but it wasn’t even me. I’m not even good at being a CGI figure…so what am I good at? I can’t even do the thing I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe all I will ever be is that actor from that very famous TV show. How do I do something new? How can I do something special?” — BoJack H.
First impressions: Ask More Questions
Alright, we’ve got a lot to unpack here. Before we even begin to address Bojack’s concerns, it’s important to first ground ourselves in a proper coaching mindset. That means we need to take all of our previous beliefs, experiences and biases and leave them at the door. We also need to resist the urge to immediately try and provide solutions for Bojack. All we want to really focus on are the words Bojack has left us in his journal — by analyzing them in detail, we can get a better understanding of his unique struggles and mindset. So, how should we start thinking about coaching Bojack through his difficulties?
Before anything else, we should look to ask more questions about Bojack’s background that might help us understand what he’s going through. What has his lived experience as an actor been like up until this point? How have the roles and relationships he’s had throughout his time in the industry shaped his current views and beliefs? Moreover, what does he want to do professionally in the future — does he still want to be an actor, or is that not fulfilling to him anymore? Getting answers to these clarifying questions will help us better put our support behind Bojack going forward.
Understand what something “new” or “special” looks like
After we’ve gotten clarity about Bojack’s relationship to acting, fame and his accomplishments so far, it’s time to home in on the specific terms he’s using in his journal entry. Right now we’re on a mission to understand what “new,” “special” and other words mean to Bojack in his own mind. If we could follow up with Bojack, we might ask him what those words mean — and the conversation might go something like this:
“What would something special look like to you, BoJack?”
“I guess… I don’t know. A show that’s my show. Something that really is me. Something that people will remember me for forever. That’s what I want. A legacy. A future.”
Alright. Now we’re getting somewhere. BoJack is saying that engaging in something “new” or “special” is akin to engaging in behaviors that will help him leave his mark on the world. In other words, he wants to leave something behind. That’s what’s important to him — and so far, acting in Horsin’ Around and Secretariat haven’t provided him with the kind of legacy he’s looking for. It’s important to note that these are his words, not ours, and that we’re purely looking to help BoJack come to these conclusions on his own.
It's also becoming clear that Bojack is currently viewing his accomplishments so far as “all or nothing” type situations. Nothing feels like success to BoJack right now unless it’s liked by absolutely everyone — which, as we all know, is a pretty impossible thing to achieve. Because the reality is that nothing any of us do will be liked by everyone all the time. Not even winning an Oscar can guarantee that everyone in the world will like the art we’ve created.
In order to get Bojack out of this black-and-white thinking rut, we need to ask some follow-up questions. For instance: is leaving a lasting legacy the only way to make what you do with your time special? Is it possible that you can still make a difference to those around you if you only impact a handful of others? And can you do something small that is still meaningful and worthwhile to you? These kinds of questions will help us get closer to the core beliefs Bojack possesses — and by getting at those fundamental beliefs, we’ll be better equipped to support him when he starts recontextualizing what a legacy means to him.
Third: getting a better understanding of Bojack’s world
Now that we’re really starting to get an understanding of Bojack’s world, we can start digging into the really deep questions that might allow him to shift his perceptions about what a proper legacy looks like. For instance, now that we know that impacting others is important to him, we might ask: are there different types of legacies you can entertain? Is there such a thing as a day-to-day legacy? When you’re on your deathbed, and all your friends and family are with you, will it be more meaningful for them to remember you for your artistic contributions, or to remember you for the relationships you’ve made with each and every one of them? Is that a legacy in and of its own?
And what we’ll start seeing is that we’re getting Bojack to look at the impact he actually wants to have on people, rather than the one he’s been told he’s supposed to have on people. We’re also dissecting his concept of a legacy and breaking it into pieces: what does a long-term, medium-term and day-to-day legacy look like? How are they similar, and how do they differ? Taken together, we’re helping Bojack build a pseudo-dictionary of terms he can rely on to define what is meaningful to him. That’s how we can best communicate with Bojack about his current prospects and future.
The last step: checking in after three months
So — it’s been a few months since we first heard from Bojack, and during that time we’ve had a host of meaningful back-and-forth journaling conversations together. In that time, he’s redefined a lot of his previous beliefs and gained clarity about what he values when it comes to leaving behind the kind of legacy he can be proud of. And along the way, he’s made a discovery: beyond Bojack’s journey as an actor, director or person, his true “legacy” involves being able to teach acting students his craft. Here’s Bojack’s final journal entry after learning that he values his role as a teacher more than his job as an actor:
“You know, this whole journaling thing really isn’t that bad. I really got to enjoy some time as a professor working with some students. And I was their leader, their mentor, their director. Maybe, my something “special” wasn’t a show; it was me teaching others to make their own show. Teaching is the closest thing I have felt to the feeling I searched for all of those years. The skits and shows my students put on were actually not bad…sure, they aren’t Mel Gibson, but then again, what is?”
Good for Bojack! His notion of a legacy is now tied to the meaningful act of teaching others, and in many ways, he’s receiving a better physiological and mental response from instructing than he ever got when working toward an Oscar nomination. Now that he’s discovered where his true passions lie, it’s important that we continue to provide coaching in the form of unconditional support on his journey toward becoming an effective teacher. It’s up to us to keep talking to Bojack about his new legacy and what it means to him.
Now that we’ve reached the end of Bojack’s official coaching cycle, it’s important to note that none of this would’ve happened had we made assumptions about his first journal entry. If we had simply tried to provide solutions instead of understanding where Bojack was coming from, we might’ve told him to just “get back on the acting horse” (yes, pun intended) instead of looking for different ways to express his desire to leave behind a legacy. Instead of providing him with fulfillment and satisfaction, we would’ve only led Bojack toward further misery and confusion.
That’s the power of coaching — in the right hands, it can change someone’s entire life trajectory. Done wrong, it can lead to worse outcomes for everyone involved. That’s why it’s important to work with coaches that really try to understand where their clients are coming from. It’s our entire mission at The Journal That Talks Back to truly understand what our clients are telling us, and hopefully we’ve been able to help Bojack by listening and responding to his concerns with patience and thoughtfulness.
But Bojack isn’t our only client. Check out our Character Coaching podcast to see how we’ve helped other titular characters — from Squidward to Dwight Schrute — or visit The Journal That Talks Back for more information about how we operate.