After the tragic news about Robin Williams yesterday, it seemed wrong to do a regular blog post without first mentioning the man who touched so many people’s lives.
I didn’t know Williams personally, but living in San Francisco, he was an ever-present part of the community. Whether it was hearing stories about him riding his bike around (he was an avid cyclist) or about the hedges at his home in the Seacliff neighborhood that he had trimmed to look like dinosaurs…or hearing stories of him being involved in local bike races or charity efforts.
Though we didn’t formally “meet,” I did bump into him once. I walked into a cozy little Italian restaurant in SF’s Marina district, and not 5 feet away was Robin Williams. He and his companion were sitting at one of the first tables in the restaurant, and he looked up to see the new guest who had just walked in (me!).
We locked eyes for a second. He seemed satisfied that I wasn’t a paparazzo. And I quickly averted my eyes so I didn’t seem like a gawking fanboy. Even though it was a huge honor to be in the presence of the man who gave me so many hours (years?) of entertainment and—dare I say—education. I grew up on Mork and Mindy and was deeply moved by Dead Poet’s Society, not to mention all the other amazing movies he did, like The Fisher King, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage—the list really goes on and on and on…
What kills me is that I know he wasn’t done. Just like when John Lennon died, you can’t help but think of how his body of work was still unfinished. What other films and projects would he have done if he had continued on? It’s too sad to think about.
Instead, the best thing we can do is be happy that he was part of our lives, and remember the positive things his life and his work showed us:
1. Always give it your all—overcommit to your part.
2. It really is possible to smile during tough times.
3. Real humor is better when it’s dimensionalized by humanity.
4. Even when you’re famous you can still be a regular guy and be involved and visible in your community.
5. You don’t have to choose between being the funny guy and the deeply feeling, sensitive serious guy. Most of us have both of those people inside.
6. Take risks.
7. Ride a bike. It’s great exercise, even if you look ridiculous in spandex.
8. As crazy and as zany as you think you’re getting, there’s still more wackiness you can tap into.
9. In life, you are remembered not just for your work, but even more for how you are as a human being.
No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
-Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society