5 Lessons Learned from Robin Williams

Robin Williams and his daughter

Robin Williams and his daughter

Tonight, we learned of the passing of one of our lifetime’s greatest icons and stars, Robin Williams. Over the past few years, we’ve seen so many legends pass — some too soon, some in the twilight of their lives. But tonight, I am feeling so profoundly saddened and touched by this loss– far too soon, and leaving behind a loving family and enduring legacy.

Robin Williams was an icon, to be sure, but one of his greatest legacies in his own life and on film was showing the power of love–through comedy and laughter, but also through heartfelt moments of being raw- in real life and as the characters he played. He battled addiction and mental illness, but saw an opportunity to reach millions of others struggling with the same issues by being open about it. He was an effervescent presence in Hollywood and in the memories of millions of people who adored his work. I thought the President’s statement was a beautiful one and captured him perfectly:

Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.

So, in honor of a man I grew up adoring, here are five lessons I learned from Robin Williams- himself and the characters he played:

1. The power of imagination is real — and magical.

Remember that scene in Hook, when lawyer Peter gets schooled by Ruffio for being an old “fart factory,” “week-old maggot burger?” Then minutes later, after an epic smack-down battle, Peter’s imagination takes over reality as he slings multi-colored gook from a spoon? “You’re doing it Peter! You’re using your imagination!”

While we all know this scenario was something for the silver screen, there is a lesson here: your imagination is a powerful thing, and can take you on journeys you never expected. This was such a cool scene to see as a kid, but as an adult, it bodes remembering: your mind is a powerful thing. Embrace your imagination, because creativity is a magical and special thing.

2. The love of a parent knows no bounds.

We saw Peter fight through Never Never Land for his kids, but one of the coolest “dad” roles was seeing Robin Williams transform from an irresponsible, reckless dad to one that would go to the ends of the earth — in drag– for his kids. Mrs. Doubtfire was probably meant to be more entertaining for kids, but I know parents out there watching with their kiddos recognized the deep desire of a father to regain control of his life and make sure he was looking out for his kids– even in a fat suit and with pie cream on his face.

3. Friendship is a powerful and magical thing.

Everyone wanted to be friends with Genie in Aladdin. Who wouldn’t want three wishes and an awesome, hilarious BFF who was your sidekick? Even though he was obligated, because he was a genie and all, Genie was a pretty kick-ass friend to Aladdin. Even without magical powers, you should be willing to move mountains for a friend — even if you don’t live in a lamp in the Cave of Wonders.

4. Laughter has the possibility to cure.

Probably one of his most true-to-self roles, Robin Williams showed us that humor and laughter have the possibility to cure. Though Patch Adams was based on a true story, this was one of Williams’ signature roles, and one that fit him perfectly. I’ve always loved this quote: “Humor is an antidote to all ills.” Ain’t that the truth?

5. Literature is a treasure.

This clip needs no introduction. One of the most beautiful moments in film.

Rest in peace, Mork, Peter, Daniel/Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch, John Keating, Robin Williams. We will always remember you.

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