At 34, I’ve always known Robin Williams as a major star. Now he’s gone, it signifies a loss of laughter, tears, and wisdom from our lives. Which means we get to grow more and make up the difference…
Since Robin Williams left on Monday August 11, much has been written about the impact of his life and death. The legacy of his comedy work, the Oscar nominations, the awareness around depression.
None of this was written by me because I didn’t feel I had anything worthwhile to say about it. I was shocked and sad like everyone else. But I believe in writing and speaking publicly only when you have something valuable to contribute. (There’s enough out there that is neither valuable nor contributing.) Which hasn’t been until now…
I never met Robin Williams, but I have a strong intuition what it was like to be him. He was like all of us creative visionaries, only more famous.
He had a personal drive to stand out and positively impact people through his work. Whether making us laugh in Aladdin or touching our hearts in Dead Poets Society. He took risks. For him, that wasn’t being brave; it was being him.
And it must have felt amazing to succeed. From the extraordinary box office of Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams to winning the Oscar (his 4th nomination) for Good Will Hunting, there was deep fulfillment. He was doing what he was put on earth to do and he got acknowledged for it every possible way a person in his position can get acknowledged.
Only in life, you can’t have successes without having failures. And lately, he had been having more failures. Old Dogs with John Travolta was reviled. Other releases didn’t make it to movie theaters. One of the last blows was his sitcom The Crazy Ones (which brought him back to his Mork roots of making people laugh every week) was cancelled after one season.
And here, dear friends, may be one of the great gems from this tragedy.
Robin Williams, bless him, with his gifts and passion and heart — was tied to the reaction to this work. If it was well-received, he was happy. If it was poorly-received, he was not. If he was the toast of the town, life was good. If he hadn’t had a hit in 10 years, life was not good.
Deep down, he was a little boy who wanted the approval of others. And here is the gem — deep down, we are all little boys and little girls who want the approval of others.
I’m going off theory and intuition here. He never told me personally and I haven’t interviewed his wife or closest friends. Yet if I’m in the ballpark, there’s a real cost to all this. We are talking about a sort of indentured servitude. Subject to others’ reactions. It’s not really being alive. It’s not really creating the life of your dreams…. However when you realize this, then you can start to create the life of your dreams. Free from seeking approval or proving yourself. Only from what lights you up.
Creating again and again and again…
Thank you very much for this final gem, Robin Williams. And may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest…
Love and gratitude,
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