“If you read and learn about what’s happening in your world and it doesn’t bother you, okay. If it does, do something about it. But always stay informed.” — George S.
Whether working a demanding schedule as a host on MuchMusic, filling the airwaves of CFNY’s Edge 102 or simply keeping himself extremely busy outside of his working life, George Stroumboulopoulos stays focused on living life.
In George’s case that means a healthy interest in everything from politics and social activism to motorcycle riding and pet boa constrictors. He also never denies himself the opportunity to catch a good movie, read, play an admittedly lousy game of street basketball or sit down for a couple of hours at his piano.
Don’t be fooled, it’s not always easy for the twenty-nine year old to find the time for all those pursuits. But like most people who have a lust for life, George makes the time to relish every opportunity to do what excites him.”You do what you love and you do what you need to do,” says George, “If you want to go and be an artist, go and be an artist if that makes you happy. Understand, though, that if there isn’t a market out there for what you want to do, don’t expect other people to fund you.”
George has a strong sense of taking responsibility for ones life and has no time for those who refuse to pay attention or keep themselves informed. He is a strong proponent of getting involved.
George doesn’t suggest you go out there and riot. “If you read and learn about what’s happening in your world and it doesn’t bother you, okay. If it does, do something about it. But always stay informed,” he says.
“[U2 singer] Bono is trying to make the world a better place. He gets a lot of abuse for it,” notes George, “but I don’t see the people that are giving him a hard time about it out there trying to make the world a better place.”
What’s the use of complaining if you don’t do anything about it? As Canadians, he feels we are especially apathetic and vents, “I don’t know why Canadians are so surprised when it turns out their water is tainted. They didn’t do anything when they knew the government didn’t care.”
“The people whose beliefs are fundamentally opposed to your beliefs are paying attention and they are voting. If you don’t care, and don’t vote, guess what, the people who are making your world a worse place, they are,” George says, and continues, “[US politician] Ralph Nader said it perfectly when he said, ‘If you’re not turned on to politics, politics will turn on you.'”
George is clearly a passionate guy; some might even say an activist. “I’m an activist in that I make myself aware of what’s going on around me – issues, stories, the news – and I try to get as much from independent sources as I can.”
He adds that working in the media one really sees how some things can get twisted. George uses media convergence as a good example of where this is true. “Look at the attention the major newspapers give to the new digital channels that are being launched. They do it while focusing very heavily on the channels that are being launched by their own parent companies,” George says.
He goes on to point out the often self-serving reports from the media: “That’s not the news. That’s about selling their own papers and digital channels. I’m ashamed at the media in this world, the mainstream media. I saw a great bumper sticker the other day that said ‘If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention.”
His passion and attention to life is just part of the reason George has found a home at the nation’s music station and happens to succeed in a field that is so competitive.
“Some people talk a lot about their dreams but have absolutely no desire. You can teach people any skill, you can’t teach them passion and desire. That’s what separates the ones who are going to do something from the ones who aren’t,” George says matter-of-factly.
But nobody’s perfect, and George admits that he has some off days when he feels like he can’t get a word out of his mouth straight. “Anyone can do this job when they’re feeling great,” George says, “It’s how you react when you are feeling down that makes the difference.”
He goes on to say, “We don’t hit home-runs all the time. In baseball if you fail [at bat] seven times out of ten, you still go to the Hall of Fame,” and adds, “It’s impossible for everything you do to be brilliant.” But there’s nothing wrong with a swing-and-a-miss as long as you step up to the plate.
But becoming one of the most recognizable hosts at MuchMusic didn’t happen without sacrifice, “I had to give up my pets because I was too busy. I couldn’t handle it anymore,” says George of his companions, which at one point included nine snakes and a pit bull.
He quickly acknowledged that he couldn’t do it all. He’d have to stay focused in order to excel. As hard as it was to give them up, George had his priorities straight and knew it was the only fair thing to do given the many extreme demands of his career.
“I’ve got a cool job that I’m truly happy in, and for that I’m truly blessed,” says George, but he dissuades people from moping around because there’s something wrong. “If your retail boss is a jerk, fine, quit. There are lots of jobs out there. Don’t like your town, move. It’s really that simple,” he states.
The point is, if you don’t like the direction your life is taking, then change it and keep changing it until you do. But, if you have to take a job doing something you don’t like, that’s okay, but make sure in your off time you’re doing something worthwhile.
“When I work here it’s not costing me my soul,” he says, “What I realized was that this doesn’t feel like a real job. I get to come here every day and I never take that for granted. I talk about issues, but I love to talk about music. While I want the world to be a better place socially and politically, my job is fun, it’s music, TV and radio – and you can’t have a bad day doing that.”
Still in his twenties, George has a valuable message for his younger viewers, “This is the time in your life when you start to build who you are. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because you will. And that’s part of learning – and you won’t stop learning – but start to build a sense of inner strength, because no one except you knows what you need.”
George’s commitment to his career and things he is passionate about become obvious very quickly as he is disarmingly honest about who he is; to himself and those around him.
As for the prospect of a new dog and some pet snakes, George says he can wait until he has the time and the space.