Siobhan Kukolic

Words to inspire the belief that we have all we need to be the change we wish to see.

Month: February 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Leonardo DiCaprio

We’ve all seen Leo’s movies.  What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.  Titanic.  Catch Me If You Can. The Aviator.  The Departed.

This year he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the fifth time.  The first four times he did not win.  And he was the only major cast member not even nominated for Titanic.

Every year he attended the Oscars he watched someone else take home the coveted golden trophy. And what did he do next?  He took on another project.  He worked hard.  He persevered.

He knew his time would come.

And this year, it did.  He won the Best Actor Oscar for The Revenant.

The thing about Leo is that he is not only an amazing actor.  He uses his fame for the greater good. Namely the planet we are all sharing, and its survival.

He has given millions of dollars to endeavours to save the environment.  He went with John Kerry to Paris to rally for 195 countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions through The Paris Agreement.  He met with Pope Francis to discuss climate change.  He spoke at the United Nations and said, “This is not a partisan debate.  It is a human one.  Clean air and livable climate are inalienable human rights. Solving this crisis is not a question of politics. It’s a question of our own survival.”

And last night, when the world was watching him accept his first Oscar, he used his time wisely saying, “Making The Revenant was about man’s connection to the natural world. We felt in 2015 it was the hottest year on the planet.  Climate change is real, it’s happening right now, it’s the most urgent threat affecting our entire species.”  He also said, “We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity.  For the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this.  For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.  Let us not take this planet for granted.  I do not take tonight for granted.”

Leo can teach us a lot about never giving up and speaking up for what you believe in.

Cyndi Lauper once said, “People can save the world by the way they think and by the way they behave and what they hold to be important.”  Thank you Leo for speaking up for the planet we all share and for the people who have no voice.  And for inspiring us to do the same.

Steve Jobs

Everyone knows Steve Jobs and how he brought the Apple computer to life.  But did you know that he dropped out of college after one semester yet the school administration saw something in him and allowed him to hang around classes for another 18 months?  During that time he stumbled into a Calligraphy course and loved it.

And because of this experience, he was inspired to create fonts when he launched the Apple computer. Can you imagine how things might be different if Steve hadn’t been inspired at the crossroads of letter shapes and programming?  If he hadn’t made that connection?  And the trickle down effects into design and advertising and visual communications?

Some people say that creativity is nothing new.  It’s just a different way of looking at things that already exist.  Taking two old ideas and weaving them together into a fresh concept.

Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things.  When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.  It seemed obvious to them after a while.  That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

So it’s important to be open to new encounters, meet different people, and read about topics that interest you.  Be curious.  Because as Oscar Wilde once said, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

And collaborate with others to find inspiration.  Amy Poehler said, “As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration.  Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own.  Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

The formal education routes are great, but they don’t always lead us on the journey to our destiny. We can’t just stop with the label we are given by our degree.  What is it that we are truly meant to be?  As Mark Twain once said, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

So think outside the box and follow your heart.  You never know what ideas you might think of and how they could change your life.  And as Steve Jobs said, “the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”


Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran wrote The Prophet and it was published in 1923.  Since then it has been translated into forty languages and has always been in print.  Kahlil moved to the United States from Lebanon as a teen and endured hardships including his siblings and mother dying young.  Supported by an older sister, he wrote on.  And he became the third most successful poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao Tzu.

The words he wrote inspired millions including Elvis, John Lennon, Johnny Cash and David Bowie.

What he said means so much to so many because truth continues to ring through his words as time passes.

Some of the things he said include…

“Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.”

“March on.  Do not tarry.  To go forward is to move toward perfection.  March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.”

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.”

“Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.”

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”

“Your daily life is your temple and your religion.  When you enter into it take with you your all.”

“Your children are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts.  For they have their own thoughts.  You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.  You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.  For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

“Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost.”

Kahlil reminds us to follow our dreams, keep moving forward even when we are unsure of what will happen next, embrace uncertainty, have faith in our gifts, learn and grow from our struggles, think our own thoughts, give our all, support our children by giving them roots and wings, and say what we mean to say.  Advice that will always be relevant.  If we listen and believe we are enough.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland was the fourth of six siblings.  Her mom had gone through some troubled relationships and was living in a small hotel with the children while they attended school.  At age 13, Misty started taking a ballet class at the local Boys and Girls Club after a school teacher noticed her natural talent.  There she met a ballet teacher who invited her to attend class at a ballet school.

She started dancing very late as far as professional dancers go, but she worked hard and she had a lot of talent.  Many people told her she was too short at 5 foot 2.  That she had the wrong body for ballet. Yet in 2015 she became the first African American woman to be named a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre, which has been around for 75 years.  That same year, she was also named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and President Barack Obama appointed her as a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Misty said, “I was the only black woman in a company of 80 plus dancers for a decade.  I felt like I didn’t belong.  I heard I wasn’t right for the company.  I wasn’t right for ballet.  My skin was too dark. I was too muscular.  My bust was too big.”

But one day she thought to herself, “I realized that my body is my instrument.  It’s up to me.  I have the control and the power to make it whatever I want it to be.  That was a huge thing for me.  It was a powerful thing, too.”

Misty never gave up and she made her wildest dreams come true.  She beat the odds.  She didn’t listen to those who said it wasn’t possible.

As William Shakespeare once said, “Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.”

No one makes it to the top of the mountain without falling down.  Without wondering whether they should turn around as the climb is too tough.  We should all remember that it takes hard work to get there and we need to continue to put one foot in front of the other. And always dance like there is no one watching.

Mark Twain

This week in 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in the United States.  The author, Mark Twain (born Samuel Langhorne Clemens), left school at 12 years old, worked as an apprentice printer, a writer and editor, and a steamboat pilot.

He led an interesting childhood as his river-side village saw many out-of-town visitors, circuses and travelling shows.

He moved out west as an adult and got a job as a reporter at a newspaper to pay the bills. He didn’t have any money or connections.  He was just a regular guy.

Yet, Ernest Hemingway said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.  There was nothing before.  There has been nothing as good since.”

William Faulkner said Mark Twain was, “the first truly American writer, and all of us since are his heirs.”

Pretty amazing that someone without education, money or connections wrote a book that is studied in schools and colleges around the world, is seen by many as a masterpiece and has always been controversial.

Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”  Which is a piece of advice that all of us should take to heart.

He liked to write.  He didn’t know he would go down in history as one of the best authors ever.  But he did what he loved and the rest took care of itself.

He said, “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

Don’t wait until you know all the answers.  Just know that you have what it takes and get started. Who knows what could happen if you follow the path you were destined to travel?


Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift.  Just 26 years old.  Millions in sales.  Ten-time Grammy winner.  Billboard Magazine’s Woman of the Year.  One of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.  The first artist since the Beatles, and the only female artist ever, to have six or more weeks at number one with three albums in a row.  And now, she is the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice.

She is talented, smart, well-spoken and savvy.  And someone I am comfortable with my young daughter, and frankly myself, looking up to.

When she won her award this week, she said, “As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there:  there are going to be people along the way who are going to try and undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame.  But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get to where you’re going, you’ll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there.  And that will be the greatest feeling in the world.”

She got rejected before she got a record deal.  She fought to write songs as well as perform them. She never forgot her fans and their value on her journey.

No matter what you do in life, there will be people who try to bring you down.  No one is immune. But those people are defining themselves not you.

One of my favourite Taylor Swift quotes is, “You’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team.  I didn’t know it at fifteen.”

Yes you will.  Believe in yourself.  Follow your heart.  And you will get there.  Whether it’s earning a promotion, writing a book, travelling the world or winning a Grammy, focus on what you have to do to make it happen and be fearless in your quest.


The Giving Tree

I remember reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein as a child and thinking, “Wow. That tree really loved that boy.” There are different ways you can look at the story, but I choose to look at it as a parent-child relationship.  No matter what the boy wanted, the parent was willing to help him.

I don’t think a child should get whatever they want.  Nor do I think a parent should lose themselves in giving the child everything they have.

But there is something about family, being a soft place to fall, being the source of all support, that makes me smile.

As we celebrate Family Day in Canada, I hope we all remember that no matter what we study, what we do for a living, or what mistakes we make, family is there.  And if it didn’t work out that way for you, make it happen for your own loved ones moving forward.

Shel Silverstein once said, “Listen to the mustn’ts child, listen to the don’ts.  Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.  Listen to the never haves then listen close to me — anything can happen child, anything can be.”

That is the message I take from The Giving Tree.  Family is there to tell you to take it all in, but to always remember that you are capable of anything.  If you believe in yourself, all your dreams can come true.

And as Shel said, listen to your own voice.  “There is a voice inside of you that whispers all day long, ‘I feel that this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.’ No preacher, teacher, parent, friend or wise man can decide what’s right for you — just listen to the voice that speaks inside.”

Let family give you the wings to fly and the roots to know where you came from.  But be true to what’s inside you and soar towards your own destiny.

Valentine’s Day

Romeo and Juliet.  Cleopatra and Mark Antony.  Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler.  There have been many love stories shared in our lifetime through literature and movies.  And Valentine’s Day is a time when many choose to celebrate the love in their own lives.

Because as Lao Tzu said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
But we cannot forget that it all starts with loving ourselves.
Buddha said, “You can reach throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself and that person is not to be found anywhere.  You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
What do you tell yourself about yourself?  Do you think you should lose weight?  Or that your nose could be a different shape?  Do you think you can accomplish anything, or do you fear that you don’t have what it takes?  Do you hold back from speaking out in public because you think your opinion isn’t as important as the thoughts of the person beside you?
Each and every one of us does one thing better than 10,000 other people.  So we should celebrate our gifts and have confidence in our perfect imperfections.  Because when we love ourselves, anything is possible.
And we can’t replace self-love with something else.  Gary Zukav said, “Scarcity of self value cannot be remedied by money, recognition, affection, attention or influence.”
So whether you’re looking for success in your love life, your career, your health, your friendships or your passions, you have to start by looking in the mirror and loving what you see.  As George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”  
So this Valentine’s Day, remember how lovable you are.  Then go out and share your love with the world.

Carol Burnett

I grew up watching Carol Burnett.  I will never forget the Gone With The Wind parody when she came down the stairs wearing the drapes and curtain rod as a dress.

Recently, Carol was given the Life Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. During her acceptance speech, she spoke about her childhood.

She lived with her grandmother in a poor neighbourhood in Hollywood, as her parents were both alcoholics and had divorced.  Carol and her grandmother would save their pennies to see three or four double features a week.  That was six to eight movies.  Then she would come home and act out the scenes in her bedroom.

She thought she should become a writer and wanted to go to UCLA, but tuition was $42 a year and they didn’t have that kind of money.  Then she ended up qualifying for a scholarship.

She began studying journalism but changed to Theatre Arts and English thinking she might become a playwright.  However, Theatre Arts students had to take an acting course as well so she had to sign up for that, too.  She didn’t think she was cut out for acting, but one night on stage she improvised a line and the audience loved it.  It awakened something in her.  She had found her passion.

Then something amazing happened…

“I was a student at UCLA and we were performing at a party in San Diego… a posh party,” Burnett explained.  “I did a scene from Annie Get Your Gun, and then after the show, I headed straight for the hors d’oeuvres, and I was putting some in my purse to take home to my grandmother.”

That’s when a man in a tuxedo, along with his wife, approached Carol, said they liked her performance, and asked her what she wanted to do in life.  She said she really wanted to go and do musical comedy on stage in New York City but she didn’t have the money.

The man said he would give her a $1000 loan with three rules… she was never to share his name, she had to use the money to move to New York and if she was successful, she had to help others by paying it forward.  He also asked that she repay the loan, interest-free, in five years.  Which she did. Someone had done something similar for that man years earlier and he wanted to pass the kindness on.

Carol went on to win Emmys and Golden Globes, a Peabody Award, and she was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient.  Her variety show, which she ran and starred in, aired for eleven years and was named one of “The 100 Best Shows of All Time” by Time Magazine.  And who can forget Mrs. Hannigan in the blockbuster movie Annie?

She had a tough start, but she did not give up.  She said, “When you have a dream, you’ve got to grab it and never let go.”

And as Joseph Campbell once said, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”

Are we following our bliss?  And if not, why not?

Touchdown

The Super Bowl is not only the pinnacle of football, but it’s one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

And one of the players who took part in the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl this year was Michael Oher.

Born to an alcoholic and crack-addicted mother, and a father who spent a lot time in prison, Michael had a hard life.  He fell behind in school and was put into foster care at age 7.  He started playing football in high school, but was struggling with his studies and didn’t have a permanent place to live.

Until Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy heard his story.  He went to the same school as their children so they let him stay with them, got him a tutor and eventually formally adopted him.

With his new found stability, he graduated high school, went to the University of Mississippi where he hit the honour roll while playing football, and graduated with a degree in criminal justice.

He ended up in the National Football League and now at the Super Bowl.

His life story was made into the Oscar-nominated movie The Blind Side.

Can you imagine what it took to get from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs?  The hard work, the hope, the belief that something great would happen one day if he just kept going?

And the honour and courage of the Tuohys who opened their home to a stranger and helped him reach his full potential?

Michael said, “It’s true that we can’t help the circumstances we’re born into and some of us start out in a much tougher place than other people.  But just because we started there doesn’t mean we have to end there.”

We don’t have to end where we started or where we are now.  The world is full of opportunities and people willing to help us up when we fall.  But are we willing to commit to our dream?

Paulo Coelho said in The Alchemist, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Have we put our dreams out there?  Are we doing something every day to help make them come true?  What is your Super Bowl?  And are you ready to score a touchdown?

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