“I am not a has-been. I am a will be.”
— Lauren Bacall
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
— Robin Williams
I wrote a post on Tumblr for Memorial Day entitled “What Will Your Verse Be?” Little did I know that I would be compelled to use this title again, to pay homage to the imaginative, uber-talented, ahead of his time Robin Williams. The man who forever immortalized these words in the film Dead Poet’s Society and again in Apple’s iPad Air ad this past winter. Little did I know how saddened and reflective I would be about them again this week.
Leaving a legacy behind that will outlive me is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It started when I lost my best friend and mentor to cancer in December 2012. She had prompted me to become an entrepreneur, travel the country giving seminars, create my Socially Speaking™ educational App for iPad to help kids, and write my book, The NICE Reboot.
I’m thinking about it again this week, the week two people passed; whom I never knew, but whose work and quotes touched me deeply, especially Robin Williams. He was someone who understood things about humor, play, pathos, giving, and human nature in a way few people ever grasp. He was someone who taught me so much about life; onscreen and offscreen. His comedy routines and films got me through the long, painful weeks watching my friend go through treatments and get sicker with each one. His impersonations and improvisations made me laugh as never before.
For me, his passing hits home how crucial finding your life purpose is. How important it is to interact with others a certain way; and not just because it influences how the world sees you or increases your empathy. It’s because it helps you craft the legacy you want to leave behind.
Maybe that’s why Bicentennial Man is my favorite film with Robin, after Dead Poet’s Society. It hits home the tangible power of a legacy, and the importance of balancing humanity with technology. It hits home the personal odyssey we are all on in life; to become self actualized human beings who make a difference in the lives of others. Robin eloquently and brilliantly showed us the ongoing struggle people have between “could” and “should”, especially in his roles in Awakenings, Patch Adams, Jumanji, Hook, and What Dreams May Come. They are all lesser known yet terrific movies that I believe showed us both Robin the man as well as Robin the actor. One who was fully in touch with his creativity engine i.e. his inner child and inner bard. One who had a unique perspective of the world as a result.
There is a price to be paid for holding lightening in a bottle. For cultivating a different Theory of Mind and being a trailblazer and “outside the box” thinker and do-er; physically and psychologically, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. I think that’s why advisory based mentorship, thought leadership, and taking a “digital detox” at regular intervals is crucial to the care and feeding of startup founders. I think that’s why reading is so important to help today’s entrepreneur “power up” and “power down” as needed.
Let me end with a poem I read on Google + by Sean Cowen:
THE SHOWMAN IN THE BEDAZZLED CROCODILE SUIT
A colorful robin flies
Between two worlds, of pain and sheer ebullience. The world
According to all needs unabashed laughter. Loud laughter.
Pure joy. Captain, My Captain, fly again.
Fly. Soar. Float above us, wings stretched
Across a splashed canvass of colors
Brighter than should be allowed. Laugh.
WITH us, as we relish you, your rapier wit, yer
Joie de vivre. Our tears are as big
As a lonely elephant when we guffaw. You
Made as chortle, and spew our drinks
Over and over. We have been Playdough, squeezed
Through the firm hands of a master puppeteer, willingly.
Good Morning, Heaven!
The pearly gates spread wide open
For El Maestro. A man, who’s comedic touch
Was as light as a snowball; heavy
As a burning sun. Burning man
And its chaos almost captures your soul, chief.
You never had a friend like me, but we had you.
We didn’t have you for 200 years
But celluloid will. Good Memory will. Books
Will be filled with legends, about one
Shining star that ignited generations of wild
Imaginations bellowing out, in dervish cries,
From bedrooms to boardrooms … Nanu, Nanu!
The History Shaman in the Asimovian world of
Tomorrow, in those Glorious Days of FUTURE
Will whisper but one name, robin.
And rainy days will start shedding their own
Barnum & Bailey tears. For you.
Messy, joyful, salty tears of
Understanding mankind. As you understood this
More perfect union.
Can you rest now, maniacal man? Your dues
Are Paid. The audience sleeps, as you sleep.
You’re in peace, tossed in the air
From your mother’s arms. Rest.
See you soon…
Don’t worry, we’ll improvise
The rest of the show.
This tribute to Robin Williams moved me to tears. We lost one of the greats this week, the ultimate showman, and the ultimate Captain. His ship pulled into port too early, but we are left with his verse. A string of them actually, laid out for all to see and cherish. You can read more about them here.