From the time Clint Eastwood rose to fame playing Rowdy Yates in Rawhide in 1958, he’s been the poster boy for masculinity. From his steely-eyed squinted glare to his delivering of lines through clenched teeth, we learned early on that his understated presence was unmatched.
But there’s more to Clint Eastwood than his tough cowboy persona and iconic swagger. He’s been acting and directing for most of his life, and at 89 years old, he still hasn’t missed a beat. So, whether you love his movies or you don’t, you have to admit the man has grit. Not only that, we all could learn a thing or two from the legend.
Don’t believe us? Let’s look at five life lessons we can learn from the man.
Life Lesson Number One: Always Punch a Bully in the Mouth
The first time Clint Eastwood rode into town on his donkey as the Man with No Name, he commanded respect. He didn’t bat an eye when the baddest bullies in town stared him down. Was he intimidated? No. He checked the undertaker’s coffin inventory and sauntered down the road for a friendly little chat that ended in bully bloodshed.
And what about Eastwood in Gran Torino? Walt wasn’t the most likable character, but when push came to shove, he stood up for the little guy. Clint shows once more that he doesn’t tolerate bullies — even if it costs him his life.
So, when you pit him against a bully, Eastwood wins — hands down.
Life Lesson Number Two: Keep 'em Guessing
Clint could have easily continued his career as a gun-slinging rebel, taking down the bad guys and picking up the ladies, but being a one-trick pony is boring. One-trick ponies don’t last long in this business.
Instead, he hung up his cowboy hat and poncho and stepped on set with an orangutan named Clyde — twice. And he didn’t stop there. He moved from in front of the camera to behind and back again. Eastwood expanded into thrillers, mysteries, adventures, and all manner of dramas. He even walked on the romantic bridges of Madison County with Meryl Streep.
So, here’s the point: You have to keep people guessing or life gets stale. But shake things up every once in a while, and you, too, could live like Clint.
Life Lesson Number Three: Don’t Let the Old Man In
You would think a blood, sweat, and grit guy like Clint Eastwood would have been set for life back when he was just 65 years old. After all, he wasn't hurting for money and he could’ve lived out the rest of his days without lifting a finger.
Isn’t that the American dream? You reach a certain age and then you kick your feet up, a cigar in your mouth and a drink in your hand, while listening to the waves crash on the shore at your beach house.
That sounds all well and good, but according to Clint, that’s the kiss of death. You retire and then you expire. Let the old man in and he’ll ruin your life. That’s why and how he’s still going strong at 89.
But how does he do it? He doesn’t let age get to him. If he gets an ache, he shakes it off. So, live like Clint and be ready to hold the old man at gunpoint if you have to, but don’t ever let him in.
Life Lesson Number Four: Trust Your Gut
When it comes to life decisions, everybody has an opinion. And if you listen to everybody else, how can you make your own way in this world? For every project Clint takes on, he doesn’t listen to the naysayers. Hell, he doesn’t even listen to the cheering section. All he listens to is his gut. If he thinks a project is a good idea or has a good message or story, he goes for it.
If it turns out well, he’s got nobody but himself to thank, and if it doesn’t, he’s only got himself to blame. Either way, it’s a learning experience. Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, and Richard Jewell have all been met with controversy, but if he hadn’t gone ahead with the stories, we might never have heard them at all.
So, whatever you do in your life, trust your gut, be confident, and ignore those who think they know better than you do.
Life Lesson Number Five: Chin Up Chest Out
Sometimes you’re going to screw up because we all do -- even the legend himself. But you can’t hide from your mistakes and let it shut you down. When Eastwood tried talking to an empty chair and it didn’t fly at the convention, did he run for the hills?
He took the lesson learned and moved forward with his life. Tough guys like him don’t have time to worry about the past. He’s got too much to do, so he keeps his chin up, chest out, punches the bullies, and moves on.
We could all use a little of that attitude.
Living like a Legend Doesn’t Have to Be Tough
Through the characters he’s played and in his real life, Eastwood has lived by a code that’s gotten him this far. And these are just a handful of lessons that we can all learn. We might not all be 6-foot-4 with a presence and a look that’ll make anybody shake in their boots, but that doesn’t mean we can’t live like Clint.
Because here’s the thing, the lessons above are simple and the code is clear: don’t let anything or anyone knock you down and apologize for nothing. Ya got that, punk? Well, do ya?
Kim Kasey is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in pop culture and entertainment. She's especially obsessed with sci-fi and if she's not watching horror through her fingers, it's just not worth watching at all. During her downtime in sunny SC, she wrangles ferrets and binges Netflix with no shame.