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John Mellencamp’s 7 Tips for Living Your Best Life

The musician reflects on his friendship with Bruce Springsteen and turning 70

spinner image singer song writer john mellencamp poses with an acoustic guitar
Myrna Suarez

1. Work Around Your Issues

I can’t spell. I have dyslexia, and the words get all scrambled. So if I write something I want to save, I recite it to somebody, and they write it down properly.

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2. Be Productive (and Do Cardio)

I’ve been fortunate enough to live an artist’s life since I was 22. Every day, I have to create something — a song, a painting. And if I don’t, I feel like I’ve wasted my time. I also have to work out every day, and I have to smoke. That’s my strong suit. I’m really a good smoker. 

3. Get Into Trouble

Summers always represented freedom for our generation. No school, and there were motorcycles and girls and county fairs, and I was always looking for mischief to get into. As the song says, “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” And I still don’t. I don’t want the kind of trouble that you can’t get out of. But I don’t mind mischief.

4. Nurture Later-Life Friendships

“I believe in the subtle art of not giving a damn. Because you only have so many damns to give in this life.”

—John Mellencamp, 70

It’s very rare that you suddenly become friends with somebody that you have known a long time. I’ve known Bruce Springsteen for years, but our friendship really blossomed a couple years ago. We talk and text a lot. I cherish that.

5. Keep at It

Usually I have to write about a hundred songs to get one good one. Painting is the same way. You’ve got to keep slugging. The problem with most people is that they quit too early.

6. Get off the Couch

I’m not a religious person, but there is some great wisdom in the Bible, including the notion that we were sent here to toil through our lives. And I believe that. We’re not here to lie around on the couch.

7. Mind the Age App

Turning 70 was hard. But a friend showed me an app that views your face and tells you how old you appear. She’s quite a bit younger than me and was bragging that she came up at 31. I was like, “Let me try that.” And I came up at 41. She said, “That can’t be right!” We both had a good laugh.

—As told to Alanna Nash

John Mellencamp’s new album, Strictly a One-Eyed Jack, features “Wasted Days,” a duet with Bruce Springsteen.

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