Please indulge me a departure from the normal writings about sales and sales management today.
By now you?ve heard the tragic news. The preliminary investigative report concludes that the death of Robin McLaurin Williams, 63, was a suicide. Just last week, Robin posted his final Instagram -- a birthday #tbt (Throw back Thursday) to his daughter Zelda. Nobody knew it was his last.
The reason Robin Williams committed suicide may never be known. Reports indicate he was battling severe depression.
?Many people who commit suicide do so without letting on they are thinking about it or planning it,? says Dr. Michael Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
More than 100 Americans commit suicide every day. It?s the 10th-leading cause of death overall; third among 15- to 24-year-olds and fourth among 25- to 44-year-olds.
I have many fond memories of Robin Williams? incredible talent, artistic mastery, and comedic genius. It was Good Morning Vietnam -- for those of us in the radio business -- which gave a glimpse of how live-and-local could connect with an audience. Even in the most desolate of conditions, Robin Williams? character made a difference in the lives of his audience, just like radio does today. Mrs. Doubtfire showed his love for his children and the lengths he would go to just to spend time with them. I realize these are only characters in movies, but with the compelling and convincing way Robin Williams portrayed them, I have to believe he wasn?t just ?acting? these roles, he was allowing us to see the many sides of Robin Williams.
Robin played roles with comedy, tragedy, and the pursuit of deeper purpose and meaning. Even in the midst of tragedy and pain, his characters found humor in life and made us laugh. He also made us think.
Here is an excerpt from Dead Poets Society. I think it?s one of the greatest motivational speeches. You can watch this clip on YouTube, it?s well worth the three minutes.
In the film, inspiring but unorthodox Welton Academy English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) spoke to his male prep-school students after taking them out of the classroom into the main hallway. He had them first discuss the Latin phrase "carpe diem" (or "seize the day") from a hymnal (page 542).
Here is what Keating says to his students:
?Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.? The Latin term for that sentiment is carpe diem. Now who knows what that means?...Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Why does the writer use these lines?...Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day gonna stop breathing, turn cold, and die.
Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You've walked past them many times. I don't think you've really looked at them. They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. Do you hear it? (whispering in a gruff voice) Carpe. Hear it? (whispering) Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
Robin Williams was an inspiration. As a man, and through his characters, he showed us courage in the face of adversity. He made us laugh despite the fact that he was apparently broken, lonely, and depressed. His death has brought people together. No matter what faith, color, country of origin, or political party, people are coming together due to a love of Robin Williams and his work. Countless tweets, blogs, and Facebook posts are sharing love, admiration, and prayers for his family to find peace.
Robin?s wife Susan Schneider told the New York Times, ?It is our hope that the focus will not be on Robin?s death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.?
?Make your life extraordinary,? admonished John Keating.
I asked for your indulgence to depart from my normal writing about sales and sales management because Professor Keating didn?t say, ?Find a career, make lots of money, and be famous.? I believe extraordinary living starts with who you are, not what you do. It?s about your faith, your family, your friends, and the impact you can make on the lives of those around you.
Very few will achieve the world-wide recognition and impact that Robin Williams had. All of us, however, can have an impact in our own world. Having a career you love, are passionate about, and are good at -- that?s icing on the cake. Robin Williams sadly taught us that even someone with an extraordinary career can feel empty, depressed, and drenched with despair.
One of my dear friends, Darryl Sims, calls me every once in a while to say, ?Just checking in on a friend. You were on my mind today and I think that?s God?s way of telling me to reach out.? What a wonderful feeling to receive a call like that for no apparent reason. I have since adopted Darryl?s approach.
Robin Williams? death, while tragic and inexplicable, can help us to evaluate our priorities. Call a friend you haven?t talked to in a while -- just to check in. Make sure you are generous with hugs and affection for your family and friends. Say ?I love you? more. Make sure people important to you know they are important. It doesn?t appear anyone knew of Robin Williams? personal suffering. You may have a friend or a loved one quietly suffering right now.
My parents taught me faith and the power of prayer to fill the emptiness we all have. No matter what your faith -- call it meditation, prayer, mindfulness, chanting, etc. Spend quiet time connecting with yourself and what you believe.
Robin Williams taught us to think deeply, but never take life too seriously. He taught us respect and irreverence, love and loyalty, creativity and craziness, laughter and tragedy, love and loss. Monday, his final lesson to us was that life is way to short.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Seize the day.
Rest in Peace Robin Williams.
Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach him at, Jeff.Schmidt@Sparque.biz. Other ways to connect:
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