Live as You Dream

30 Oct

Central Park. Photo by DMT

I’m keeping my New York City dreams alive.

In part two of my “Optimism 101” course, I’d like to offer a list of movies and videos I frequently watch in order to remind myself to keep dreaming and, maybe even more importantly, to keep believing in my dreams.

These movies and videos inspire me for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that each one of them gives me faith.  None of the “heroes” in these digital motivators is perfect.  In fact, that’s precisely what I love about them.  Infallible heroes are not interesting or inspiring, what’s inspiring, to me, is the idea that the challenges presented by human frailty are used to shape spirit and mold character.  I love the flaws, and I love those who can get knocked down over and over, and yet continue to rise.  I love the heroes who have faith in their convictions, but who also aren’t afraid to admit when they’re wrong and change direction.

Oh, and I’m a sucker for great quotable lines.

Optimism 101 Movie List

1. Peaceful Warrior [2006] – This movie is based on the real life story of Dan Millman, a former UC Berkeley gymnast who underwent a personal transformation after a terrible accident and later founded The Peaceful Warrior’s Way, a self-help motivational teaching movement designed to help people empower themselves.  The movie is a cross between a drama and a philosophical life lesson, and it does an incredibly good job of driving that lesson home through the lessons that Dan learns when he meets a gas station attendant, Socrates [convincingly played by Nick Nolte]. My favorite lines in the movie are “Take out the trash. The trash is anything that keeps you from focusing on the only thing that matters – this moment.  And when you’re truly in the present, you’ll be surprised at what you can do, and how well you can do it.”

2. Interstate 60: Tales of the Road [2003] – This movie is a hilarious trip down the fabled “Interstate 60” as Neil searches for answers to his life’s purpose after meeting the elusive O.W. Grant [Gary Oldmam].  Neil’s lesson is about how to let go of the need to look to others for answers and to trust what he knows is right for him.  One of the best scenes in the film is when Neil takes a woman to the town of Banton to look for her missing son, and ends up in the office of the local sheriff [Kurt Russell].  There he learns an important lesson about the ways in which trading individuality for the perception of happiness is an incredibly dangerous choice.  My favorite line is uttered by Bob Cody [Chris Cooper] who tells Neil, “Say what you mean, mean what you say. You know that if everybody follow that rule, there’d be a lot less trouble.”

3. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address – This video makes me simultaneously cry and cheer when I watch it.  Jobs reminds the audience of newly minted graduates that they should “follow their bliss” and do what they truly love.  It is very simply the best reminder that while circumstances and events in your life are not within your control, your choice to see them as obstacles or life lessons is.  My favorite lines are after Jobs explains that Macs have such beautiful fonts because he dropped out of college. He says, “Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever–because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”

4. Tombstone [1993] – I love this movie because it is about loyalty, friendship, love, and the strength of believing in one’s convictions.  Wyatt Earp [Kurt Russell] follows his conscience – and his heart – and does what he believes is the right thing to do, knowing that it might very well cost him his life.  The friendship between Wyatt and Doc [Val Kilmer] is an amazing thing to behold, and is the source of my favorite quote.  On his deathbed, Doc tells a conflicted Wyatt, “There is no normal life, Wyatt. There’s just life, and you live it.”

5. Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action [2010] – This talk is based on Sinek’s book Start With Why.  In it, Sinek discusses “The Golden Circle,” the basis for his theory on why great leaders and corporations inspire action and loyalty.  My favorite line is Sinek’s thesis, “People don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it.”

6. Freedom on My Mind [1994] – This California Newsreel documentary about the struggle to gain voting rights in Mississippi in the 1960s should be required viewing for every American.  The film goes to the heart of the movement and combines actual footage shot during the Mississippi Freedom Rides with 1990s interviews with the people who were involved in the rides and in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.  I love this film because it illustrates the enormous complexities that were involved with the struggle without trying to provide a monolithic narrative.  My favorite line is from Endesha Mae Holland who, at the time, was viewed by the town as a teenage girl with no morals.  She recalls, “The whole town looked down it’s nose at me, but the movement told me I was somebody.  They said I was somebody.”

7. A Man Named Pearl [2006] – In 1976, Pearl Fryar was s a black factory worker who bought a house in an all-white Bellville, South Carolina neighborhood.  When the real estate agent informed the residents of the neighborhood that a black family would be moving in, they were upset because “Black people don’t keep up their yards.”  As a result, Mr. Fryar, who had no artistic or horticultural experience, created a yard that is now considered a topiary masterpiece in both the art and horticultural worlds.  My favorite line comes from an interview with the Reverend of Mr. Fryar’s church.  When people ask him how an old man can do what Mr. Fryar does [he was in his 50s when he started the garden], the Reverend says, “Sometimes blessings come early and sometimes blessings come late, but they are always right on time.”

8. Braveheart [1995] – The epic story of the fight for Scotland’s freedom, William Wallace is one of the best heroes on film.  He loves his country, his friends, his family and his late wife, and while he isn’t perfect in any way, he is deeply committed to doing the right thing to the end.  There’s a tie for my favorite lines in this film, it’s either “Every man dies, but not every man lives.” or “In the year of our Lord, 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen. And won their freedom.” The last one leaves me sobbing every time.

These are a few of the films that give me hope, and allow me to keep my faith alive.  If you’d like to share the movies or videos that lift your spirits and help you keep your faith in your own dreams, please do.

I’m always looking for new inspiration — and my students would probably appreciate it if I’d add some new quotes to my repertoire.

One Year to Move Blog Music


One Response to “Live as You Dream”

  1. How to set goals November 2, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    Many men and women hardly ever set out to reach their ambitions, or never set their goals to begin with, because they experience a fear of failure or rejection. Possibly they don’t really think that they can certainly accomplish this, or probably they wrongly think that if they easily tell themselves what they want plenty of times, those ambitions will be achieved.


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