THIS BELOVED USC PROFESSOR, AUTHOR, LECTURER AND LOVE GURU WAS THE REAL DEAL; LEO BUSCAGLIA SHOWED US LOVE BY LIVING IT.
As a Relationship Coach I pay attention to a lot of the other men and women in my profession who are also out there in the media. Married to a Personal Brand Coach, I’m also looking at their brand. Is the image they portray in the media, and in the public’s eye, consistent and authentic to who they are, or is it manufactured to help them create a niche that separates them from the pack?
One man whose insides matched his outsides was Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D., author, lecturer and motivational speaker. He was the “Hug Doctor,” or “Dr. Love”, as many called him. Gone now for more than 13 years, Leo was the real deal. What he said, what he taught us about love being everything, how he hugged you either literally or with the words in his book — these are exactly who he was when the cameras were not rolling.
I remember the first book of his I ever read, Living, Loving, and Learning. The cover of the book of him hugging someone is forever etched in my mind. I was 25. In many ways I was so connected to his words yet disconnected from myself. I knew that what was on the page was powerful. It touched me, yet I was not quite ready to embrace his experiences as my own. He wrote 15 books over the course of his career and even had 5 of them simultaneously on The New York Times Best Seller List. I probably read a third of them. Knowing how closely aligned my current work is with his, I owe it to myself to embrace the rest of them. His message of loving was so consistent throughout his work. He never lost track of the really important things in life in an effort to keep current. In many ways his work just attempted to touch us all in a different way while still offering the same important message.
I do recall thinking that the whole concept of hugging, and his version of hugging everyone, was a little too touchy-feely for me. Yet his message was so powerful and his delivery was so genuine that I couldn’t help but be drawn into him and his work. It’s pretty amazing to think that all these years later we can watch a YouTube video of a guy standing in a crowded square with a sign that reads Free Hugs and the concept appears to be so novel. Leo didn’t need a sign. He just hugged you, knowing that after a second or two of any discomfort or uneasiness the person would eventually relax and sink into it.
Leo modeled for so many what it meant to be present and to live each moment with a great sense of joy, enthusiasm and gratitude. In his lectures and books, he often talked about how people needed to understand and embrace their eventual deaths in order to truly live their lives. In one article he wrote about what he wanted his epitaph to read on his tombstone: Here Lies Leo Who Died Living. In many ways I believe that is what made him so attractive to people. His sense of presence was apparent in his lectures and even in his books. When you read a book by Leo Buscaglia, you feel as if he were reading just to you.
There are any number of us out there in the world — writing books, giving lectures, working one-on-one with clients — who owe what we do to Leo. Not because he originated love as a central theme in life, but because he embraced it with such wholeheartedness that he made it palatable for those who might normally have resisted that possibility in their daily lives. In essence he bridged the spiritual and the practical in ways that few before him were able to achieve, and few since.
I encourage all of you, as I encourage myself, to revisit his work or visit it for the first time. Remember Leo as I remember him. And don’t be surprised if as you read his books, you sense he’s sitting right next to you and reading along with you. Love is that powerful.
To Felice Leonardo Buscaglia, wherever your spirit roams, thank you for the body of work you have left us. Thank you for the hug.