Inspiration #16 Robin Williams and how he inspired me to approach the world with a laugh and a smile

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As a child of the 80s and 90s, I grew up with Robin Williams films.  Back in the day when we still had video stores it would be an easy choice if a new Robin Williams film came out.  My family moved away from the rest of my relatives when I young so I didn’t really have a lot of extended family while growing up and somehow Robin was kind of like that crazy zany uncle who would come visit once in a while on my TV screen telling me it’s all right to laugh at myself.  

I remember he was always kind and always went out of his way to make somebody anybody laugh.  But he wasn’t always just funny.  He was also emotional.  I remember watching him in Hook and how he obsessed with his work and forgot about his children and at the end it turned out he was Peter Pan and at the end he learned to laugh and smile again.  It was one of my favorite movies growing up.  It taught me that as I grow older and have my own family to never lose sight of what is important.  Family.  Never to take myself too seriously and just laugh when the world decides to give me lemons for the day.  

When I was teaching English in Asia, fresh out of University facing a room full of uninterested teenagers I thought about what I could do to get their attention.  I remember Robin Williams in Patched Adams with the red rubber nose and making his patients laugh.  So I stood on the table.  That got their attention quickly.  I joked.  I rapped.  I raced a student from one end of the classroom to another to ask English questions.  I made them laugh and eased their hearts from another usual by the book lesson.  It was alright to make others laugh at me.  I laughed too.  Soon we laughed together.  Robin Williams taught me it’s alright to be silly and how it’s so important to laugh and smile even though I’m an adult and should be proper.

Robin Williams was that crazy, zany uncle who makes inappropriate jokes at the table filled with normal adults.  But he’s also the one who won’t forget your birthday.  He will sit down next to you and hear you out and pull a coin from your ear to make you laugh.  He cares when so many other adults simply forgets.  So Robin inspired me to be a better person when I grow up.  I wanted to grow up to be that crazy uncle who will care and make kids laugh.  I never met you Robin, but you inspired me to become a better person, one who would smile, laugh and care.  The world lost a gentle soul but where ever you are I hope you have found peace.  

Inspiration #15 Julie Andrews and defining perseverance

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“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” – Julie Andrews

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure lately and how little we are allow to fail throughout life.  Since we’re young we are told to color within the lines.  When we get older and take a math test, we try and fail we are given a poor test score.  

We punish failure so much and we punish play and experiment.

So now we have kids growing up with apps and they’re pretty and well animated.  At a push of a button I saw my 4 year old niece move the picture of a cake mix to the bowl and she would mix it together.  10 seconds later the cake is done.  It’s so clean and it’s so perfect.

But where’s the failure?  How much value is there when it’s so easy and perfect on the first try?  How will she feel when she encounters real failure for the first time?  Will she just give up and try something easier and we keep have to lower standards in order to not hurt feelings.

Truth is, it’s alright to fail.  It’s alright to fail a lot as long as we keep trying and get better at things and not give up.  There was a point in my life when I felt tests were not important.  Everything should be free, but without them how do we know what levels we should be striving for?  Tests are important but when we failed it’s alright too as long as we keep at it.  

It’s so important to be positive and continue to try.  Perseverance comes from trying again and again when one day we finally figure it out.  I wonder if we deny our children with only instant gratifications instead of the hard won and learned gifts.

How I lost my motivation

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When I first started writing this I wanted to see how long I can keep at something everyday before it became bothersome.  I was around two weeks in when I stopped writing.  I think that was when I printed it out and looked over it and saw the reality of my progress.

It wasn’t very good.  At all.

I wrote sparsely here once in a while trying to motivate myself to write again and continue on but the nagging voice in the back of my mind was “What’s the point?”

That voice was loud and it told me “You’ll never become a writer.”  “You’ll never get fit.” “You’ll never amount to anything.”

That voice spoke without words, but more a feeling.  I became depressed and I exercised less.  I told myself I needed a break.  Work became a hassle again.

Everything felt ‘What’s the point?”

I don’t have any friends to rely on and frankly it was my own fault.  When invited to things, I’ve often said no or not reply at all.  People move on in their lives.  Somehow I didn’t realize how lonely I actually was.

What was the point of even trying when I’ll just fail at the end.

I started eating junk food again.  Something I had stopped for 3 months.  I started because it was easy.  It felt good to just sit there and watch TV with a bag of chips and soda.  Just sit there when I had time off.  I wasn’t happy with work and everything felt like a bother when I am at home.

I suppose I should be thankful that I at least have a job.  It felt like I was pretending to be someone I was not when I was trying to write and draw and work out.  It wasn’t who I am.  If I look closely in the mirror who I really am, then I am that person sitting on the couch watching TV eating junk food.  Or sitting at the computer reading websites on trivial things that doesn’t really mean anything.  I would criticize other people’s hard work and compare it to someone else’s hard work knowing full well that I cannot do anything even close to the worse of the writing, drawing I have seen posted on the internet.

I had become depressed.

I started following this anime called “Persona 4” and while I was depressed I just watched it.  Watching the main character Yu transfer to a new school and make friends.  I kind of wished I had friends too.  Some people I can rely on.  But the silence is deafening so I fill that silence with noise.  Reading and listening to just noise to drown out the silence of me being alone.

How did I become this way?  Have I always been like this? I wondered.  I know I had tried many times to try to break out of this depression and when I sometimes feel that I had broken free it would bring me back down.

I know how to get out of it.

I just need to say yes.  But then I would regret it.  I would say to myself “What a bother.”  I just wanted to be alone.  And here I am.  More alone than I ever wanted to be, but here I am sitting alone.

I am not happy.  The more I sit here doing nothing, the more unhappy I will become.  What I need to do is stand up and go out and do something.  Anything.  It doesn’t matter what.  I need to get up and do something.

The feeling always return “What’s the point?”  “Why even try?” “It’s just a pain.”  That voice would point a finger at me and ask, “What are you even passionate about?  You don’t have any.  You just want to be noticed.  You want to write something so that you will be noticed.  You wanted to draw well so someone would say, ‘That looks really good.  Who is he?’  You just wanted all that stuff.  But you can’t ever achieve any of that because you’re not passionate about it.  You are just a lonely person who can’t do anything.”

What am I passionate about?

I don’t know.  I thought I wanted to tell stories, but I can never complete them.  I would get stuck.  I can never get unstuck so I would give up and start over and write something until I become stuck again.  I can’t get past failure.  I’m not smart enough.  I’m not talented enough.  I haven’t worked hard enough.  There are other people out there who knows more.  Who are more talented than me.  I can’t even get past myself.  How can I compete with that big scary world out there?  I should just blend in.  Just fade in the background.

Then how would you like to be remembered?

I know if I continue like this, I won’t be remembered.  My family and people I know would say, “That’s too bad.  How do you remember him?  He’s pretty quiet.  He keeps to himself a lot.  I think he likes reading a lot.”

I haven’t done much in life have I?
So what is the point.  I’m in my 30s and I haven’t done anything.  My life is a failure.
That voice constantly telling me.  Just lie down, don’t worry about any of that.  Just relax and eat.  You have it rough.  It’s not easy not having friends.  It’s too hard needing to write.  You work an 8 hour job right?  Come on you don’t have any time to relax.  You don’t have to do any of this.  It’s ok.  Most people are like you.  You don’t need to stand out.  1/3 of people are obese anyway.  So it’s alright.  You don’t have to do anything about it.  Then when you’re gone.  Well you don’t have to feel loneliness anymore.  It’s alright.  Don’t worry about it.

You’re better off than a lot of other people.  You don’t do drugs and you’re not in debt.  You have family even though you don’t see them very often.  You don’t have to worry.  You don’t need to write.  You don’t need to draw.  You don’t need to get in shape.  You just need to feel better.

I wrote something down on my whiteboard a while ago.  Couple of months ago when I first started working out.

“I don’t want to feel better.  I want to be better.”

Hey buddy.  I know you’re not thinking right, right now.  And it’s alright we all have those days or weeks.  We get in a funk.  It happens to everyone.  You know that.  And it’s all right.  I know your feelings were hurt when you read what you wrote but you know it’s part of the process.  Nobody get good right away.  Everyone has to start somewhere and you only put 10 days in at only half an hour a day.  Is that really all you’ve got?  Come on, let’s be honest here and shut the shadow out for a second.  You’re not good at writing today.  That’s alright.  But to think you’ll never get better, that’s silly.  Even when you fail, you’re gaining something.  You learn something new and that’s going to stay with you.  Remember when you started drawing?  You drew every day and in your second week, there was a jump in quality.  It got better.  When you draw again, you’ll still be better.  Remember when you couldn’t draw hands?  Now you could.  I know you could, because you’re me.  You’re no longer afraid of drawing hands because you’ve done it before.  You just need more practice that’s all.  Remember how you felt when you finished drawing?  Remember that feeling of accomplishment?  Then you looked forward to what else you can bring alive tomorrow?  I know you’ve forgotten when that shadow started talking to you; filling your mind with doubt.  It’s alright.  I am your persona after all.  It’s alright that you feel afraid.  It happens to everyone.  But I’m here to remind you some of the things you have forgotten.

Do you remember when you were writing and you wrote the dialogue about Elealla?  How you laughed out loud when you were writing her.  You had fun writing those dialogue.  You thought it was funny when you made her deadpan her lines while she used the zapper on the guy.  Remember that?  Remember how excited you were when you were trying to bring Lyth to life?  Remember when he tried to figure out how to deal with the refugees?  Sure he’s rough around the edges and you will have to polish him a lot but you have something.  He’s on paper and you have given life to something that would not have existed at all.  You have these characters in your mind who are waiting to exist.  Why are you really writing?  Come on.  You know it. 

I want to make something that didn’t exist before.  I want to share these characters to the world.

That’s right partner.  You wanted to bring something new into the world.  That’s why you really wanted to write and draw.  That’s nothing wrong with that dream.  It’s a hard dream to achieve in reality but it is achievable.  Characters are written everyday.  Stories are told everyday in every language known to man.  Why can’t you?  You’ll have to work for it though.  You’ll have to work hard for it.  But just little by little.  Just a little bit every single day.  You know what you need to do.  You just have to do it. 

Buddy, I’m going to let you in on a secret that you already know.  People are attracted to passion.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  People can tell when someone is really truly passionate about something.  Good or bad, people are attracted to it.  You want to not be so lonely anymore?  Be passionate regardless of what you are doing.  Be passionate about it.  Working out, drawing, writing, anything.  Just give it your all and don’t see it as another chore.  You’re alive right?  So just give it your all.  You won’t even feel tired because you’re passionate about it right?  Go on and test yourself.  Push yourself through the obstacles that hinders you.  Go at it with everything you’ve got and if you fail.  That’s alright.  It’s alright to fail because like Neil Gaiman said, that’s means you’re doing something new.  And you will get better at it. 

You only stop getting better at something when you stop trying. 

So try and fail and try again.  You’ll get it eventually.  And enough with the pity party about your age.  Remember what Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”  You know this quote because I am you.  You already have the answers to get through this.  You just need to start again and I’ll be right there with you when you’re trying. 

So let’s try again.

Inspiration #14 Albert Einstein and the perception of time

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“When you’re courting a pretty girl an hour seems like a second.  When you sit on a red hot cinder a second seems like an hour.  That is relativity.” – Albert Einstein
 
I was thinking about this quote when I look at the clock while sitting in front of my screen trying to get my thoughts onto the computer.  It seems like it takes forever to think of the right sentence.  Other times I am simply out of ideas and I would just sit there staring at the screen.  Other times I would be exercising and it would only be a 10 minute exercise but the time goes by so slowly as I’m pulling the weights.
 
Yet when I’m sitting on a couch watching TV or playing a video game time just flies by.  Later on I would feel guilty how much time I had wasted when I could have been working on my story, or exercising or drawing.  There are so many things that I could be doing that would have been better spent than just sitting there wasting time.  At the end when I look back, I always tell myself I just didn’t have the time to write, to exercise or to draw or do all the things that can lead me to my dreams. 
 
Truth is.  All the things that are worth while is hard and I have to work at it to get better at it so that it’ll become easier.  It’s funny how there’s not enough time but there is time but I often make the wrong choice and spend it on things like watching TV or playing.  Excuses are readily available.  I work 8 hours a day at my day job.  I spend another 8 hours sleeping.  I only have 8 hours left.  I need to clean the house, spend time with my girlfriend.  Is it so bad to want to just rest and watch TV?
 
So I would choose poorly.  But time is really relative and all I really need to do is spend just a little bit on something so I can get better at it.  Then the time won’t seem to go by so slowly.  So I pulled myself from the couch today and worked out just 10 minutes today and then I came here to write just a little bit.  I only have 15 minutes before I have to go to work and I still have to get ready but this is at least something.  I can only get better at this by keep trying so that one day an hour seem like a second as I write, exercise or draw and watching a second of TV seem like an hour.

Inspiration #13 Marcus Aurelius on finding strength from within

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“You have power over your mind – not outside events.  Realize this and you will find strength.”
– Marcus Aurelius

Time passed by quickly when I was just trying survive every day.  For some reason in the last week or so, the energy I had in exercising and writing all seem to have dissipated.  I could barely bring myself to work and even then I could just drag myself through.  The weekend seemed to have breezed through and I didn’t feel refreshed at all.  Somehow I am stuck in a funk and worse yet, I don’t feel any happiness by not exercising or writing.  I just feel guilty for not doing those things and how poorly I have spent my time.  I find myself wanting to just crawl back into bed in the morning.

I have these bouts of depression before as I assume most people have from time to time and this is what I am feeling now.  I know I can get myself to not feel this way.  But it’s really easier said than done.

Yesterday I stumbled onto this quote about Marcus Aurelius and I found it to make a lot of sense.  It’s really about how my thoughts dictate things and how I choose to see things.  I can’t control my work schedule or other responsibilities.  But I can choose how I bare it.  I can choose how I feel about it and I can make time.  It may be hard, but I may feel happier.

I used to draw a little bit and I was on a pretty good roll for a while then I stopped.  Just as how I was pretty good in writing here and pumping myself in writing and I was on a roll then.  I simply just tend to stop.  But instead of waiting for months or even years to try again.  It’s been four days.  Let’s try it again today.  I can’t control outside events, but I can control how I feel about these events.

I choose to feel happier today.

Inspiration #12 Jeff Bridges on what is love

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“But another aspect of keeping a marriage together, I think it’s important to – you’ll think I’m silly – but to love each other, which begs the question: “what is love?” Words that come to mind are openness, understanding, gentleness, kindness, and kind of working on those things, because everyone has a light and a dark side, I think, selfish aspects, and to kind of recognize those in each other and realize that we are going to have our own particular story at any given time, and those stories, they might not be the ultimate truth but they are certainly true for each of us, so to understand that we are each going through our particular version of reality, to respect that, and to nurture being in love, you know? To nurture that.” – Jeff Bridges

I was reading this Reddit AMA with Jeff Bridges and found this pretty inspirational.  This hasn’t been the easiest of weeks for me and part of it is because I’ve been working nights.  Before I would see my girlfriend every night and we would have a talk and see how her day went and I would tell her about my day but because of our schedules we just couldn’t talk to each other.  She was asleep by the time I was home and she already went to work by the time I got up.  We messaged each other throughout the day but it wasn’t the same to talking to each other.  So I found Jeff Bridges words to ring quite true.

Love is really a simple thing and it really just involves talking and being interested in the lives of our loved ones.

Inspiration #11 Og Mandino on planting down seeds today to harvest tomorrow

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It was easier said than done when sitting down with what looks like a broken piece of narrative and picking up the pieces to keep writing.  So like usual before I started writing again I would come here and look for some inspiration so I can warm up the writing muscles to complete my next set of prose.

Today I found a quote by Og Mandino who wrote “Always do your best, what you plant today, you will harvest tomorrow.”

It reminded me of what my parents had taught me when I was young.  They made me attend Chinese classes every Saturday morning for a good six years.  I hated it and I didn’t think I was really getting any better at it.  I couldn’t read a book completely.  I still to do a lot of guess work.  I just wasn’t very good at it and I always thought I had wasted my time. 

Years later and I got a job teaching in Japan and boy oh boy did knowing Chinese helped out there.  Well it helped maybe too much as I relied on it so much that it kept me from actually studying Japanese while I was there.  But it got me by and I knew what was going on in the news even with the little bits of Chinese that I knew.  I can look at a menu and order things and I could even hear bits and pieces of mandarin as well.  It’s pretty crazy how much I can read now and as I think back I wondered where in the world did I learn that from?  It must have been those useless Chinese lessons that I kept sleeping through.  Somehow some of it stuck.

As I write I wonder if I am just wasting my time.  I wonder to myself if I would be better of doing something more worthwhile like I don’t know getting a certificate for something or upgrade myself so I can do just anything that isn’t what I am currently doing now.  But then it begs the question.  What do I want to do?  I want to tell stories for a living.

It’s like what Neil Gaiman said.  So what I’m doing now, is it bringing me toward the mountain or away from it?  I know if I did anything but practicing writing I will be moving away from that dream.  Sure what I’m doing now is pretty bad.  I have lifeless dialogues and poorly written paragraphs that don’t flow well together, but I’m learning and planting right now.  Maybe in a year from now I’ll get better after I continue to rewrite and add to that story.  Maybe if I just keep trying, one day I can tell my story as how I have imagined it in my mind.

I’ll just have to keep trying.

Inspiration #10 Roald Dahl on the rewrites that no one knows about

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I apologized for not writing for the last couple of days.  You see I did something I probably shouldn’t have done so early in my writing stage and that was to re-read what I have been writing for the last 9 days.  I printed it all out and I got out my red pen and started reading it over.

I ended up being pretty disgusted with myself.  I tried to form a habit of writing a little for the last 9 days and this is the kind of garbage I turned out?  The school teacher in me could only shake his head as I put the red pen to paper.  I circled and crossed out and added questions while the creative side hung his head in shame.  While I’ve been writing just trying to get ideas from keyboard to computer, I have been reading some of my favorite chapters in Robert Jordan’s Knife of Dreams and I marvelled at how well written it was.  Each characters had life and each sentence linked so well.  The characters jumped from the page and I was hooked even though I had read those chapters so many times before. 

I can never write like that. 

I looked at what I had written and I pretty much despaired.  Like so many times before, I stopped and I sulked and crush those pages in little balls as the that school teacher in my shook it’s head with disappointment and the creative side of me continued to hang it’s head with shame.  The paragraphs didn’t match and the ‘voices’ didn’t match.  There were enough details in the scene and everything felt rushed.  The theme wasn’t well thought out and everything just seemed wrong. 

So I stopped and took a break from giving myself a hard time.  It’s true when we are our own greatest critic.  There are no excuses when we truly examine ourselves and we can be harsh judges.  I know this, and I thought I could pick myself up from it but I felt myself bogged down.  I looked to other narratives and I envied how well others had written and published and found myself that I can never reach the quality in written narrative.

But here I am, late at night and I came onto a story of Roald Dahl, the famous author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here he wrote a letter to his daughter

“The reason I haven’t written you for a long time is that I have been giving every moment to getting a new children’s book finished. And now at last I have finished it, and I know jolly well that I am going to have to spend the next three months rewriting the second half. The first half is great, about a small girl who can move things with her eyes and about a terrible headmistress who lifts small children up by their hair and hangs them out of upstairs windows by one ear. But I’ve got now to think of a really decent second half. The present one will all be scrapped. Three months work gone out the window, but that’s the way it is. I must have rewritten Charlie [and the Chocolate Factory] five or six times all through and no one knows it.”

Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate factory five or six times?  That was the first time I had heard of it and there it was and it came upon me.  How many times had these authors written and then rewritten their works?  How many times had they crumbled their papers and despaired as well?  Here I was despairing when I only had 10 measly pages written? 

Sure what I had written right now isn’t good, but that’s alright.  I just need to keep moving forward and just keep writing and then when I reached 90,000 words, I’ll rewrite it and then write it again until I am satisfied. 

Inspiration #9 Walt Disney on pursuing your dreams

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I think it’s safe to say when most people were young like 6 years old they dream big.  Some wants to become an astronaut or become the president or a billionaire.  As we grow older to ten years old most of us temper those dreams to something more in reach.  I want to become a doctor or a computer programmer, an athlete or a fireman.  As we grow older to our teens and know more how the world works we temper those expectations even more.  Some are well on their way to becoming what they wanted to be, but for the rest of us we simply have no idea what we wanted to be in life.

Why is it when we were young we would dream big but as we age we become more cynical?

When we were young we were constantly learning new things.  We learned to use the toilet, we learned our first words, we learned to walk and ride a bike.  We learned our first letters and words.  We were constantly learning in only the first six years of our lives and we would master these things as if it’s second nature.  But as we grow older in school or in life things become more difficult to master.

Maybe we struggled in class with math when we were in grade one and nobody at home helped or maybe we found it boring and much rather play with our friends instead of learning math.  Maybe the book wasn’t interesting and we rather watched TV instead or play on the ipad and send messages to our friends.  As we grew older we made some choices not to pursue learning math, English, science, or gym, but the school year continues leaving us better in some areas but not very well in others.  The next math lesson became more difficult, the next book became longer with more difficult words.  The new science classes expected us to know more with bigger words and it’s all so difficult.  Then the test came and we got a B in English which isn’t too bad but we got a C in Math so that must mean we’re not good at math so let’s just forget about that and concentrate in English instead.  Maybe we got an A in English next time and then a C- in math next time.

We started to categorize all the things that we are good or bad or maybe we’re not good at studying at all.

So when we grow older, we temper our dreams and ask what am I really good at?  Which of those dreams are reachable?  I want to become a doctor.  Well we probably need to be good at science but I got a C- on the last science test.  So I probably cannot become a doctor.  I want to program video games.  I got a D on my last math test so I probably cannot become a programmer.  I want to become a journalist, but I got an F on my last English writing exam so that probably won’t work out.

We look at our friends and they are getting A and B+ on their exams.  We know they’re well on their way.  But what about the rest of us?

You see the funny thing about life is that it is always in motion.  But tests and exams take a snap shot of how well we are at a subject at that particular moment in time.  Maybe we didn’t study enough and we got that D that day so are no longer motivated to get better.  But that doesn’t define us of what we are capable of.  I don’t believe in being smart and I definitely don’t believe learning math or English or science is written in our DNA as much as learning to speak, talk, or walk is either.  As Walt says, as long as we have the courage to pursue those dreams, we can do it.

We can always change.  We can always become better at things we dream of just like when we were young learning to walk, to talk, or to go potty.  Just as we can learn to do math, write, or play the guitar.

We can pursue our dreams but we are afraid because of so many past failures.  Instead we should look forward.  At this moment we can’t do many things, but tomorrow if we have the courage, we can become more than what we are today.

I dream of becoming a writer, but I’m not good at writing yet.
I dream of becoming an illustrator, but I’m not good at drawing yet.
I dream of making a great risotto, but I’m not good at cooking yet.

What do you dream about but cannot do yet?