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Be That Fool.

November 11, 2014

Ed Helms at Cornell:

Only a fool would work hard when there is no clear objective. Be that fool. Many times in life, we don’t have a clear goal. Doesn’t matter. Be a fool and work hard at whatever’s right in front of you. When you try hard at everything you do, even if it seems utterly foolish to do so, you are opening up future doors and possibilities that you might not be seeing in the moment.

Only a fool would deliberately scare himself. Be that fool. Scaring ourselves isn’t necessarily fun for anybody, but you have to do it – it’s the most potent catalyst for growth.

I was a fool for taking on more than I could handle and it was brutal, but at least I had an outcome. And outcomes, whether good or bad, allow us to move forward. Maybe trim the sails, but stay in forward motion. Had I exercised good sense and good judgement, had I not been foolish I would have never done it and then all I would have is a vague sense of regret and wonder which is at best useless and at worst paralyzing.

Only a fool would disregard his past and future. Be that fool. We should all learn from our past and plan for our future, right? Well, sort of. The problem is we often take it too far and undervalue the present. Enjoy this moment! Staying present in the moment is counter-intuitive but it’s worth it.

I thought I was being smart, prudent, exercising discretion and common sense. But I was actually just being arrogant and fearful, preoccupied with catastrophe. What I really needed was to disengage my analytical mind and be foolishly in the moment.

The script in front of me was really funny, and made me laugh! I knew I would have fun making this movie. All of that information was reality, it was the present. My paranoid predictions about the future – that was fantasy. Once I focused on the present, what was real, the answer was abundantly clear. Do the damn movie!

Good old days are good because it’s the times we look back on and realize we really liked ourselves. I contend that good old days are marked by relatively high levels of foolishness. Case in point? College. College is almost always considered good old days and for good reason – it’s one of the great incubators for foolishness. Sadly so much of that vitality and curiosity that we bring to college is almost immediately squished out of us when we step out into the real world.

Remember when you arrived as freshmen for orientation and you were so open and curious and vulnerable? You went out of your way to meet other kids in your hall, you helped your neighbors move in. Over the next few years you worked hard but you probably also went to some weird jazz concerts or poetry readings, maybe a party or two. Perhaps you stayed up late debating Ayn Rand vs Karl Marx or skipped class to go on a great hike. You joined clubs, you scoured the course catalogs to find subjects that ignited your curiosity.

The world will tell you that that’s all well and good but it’s time to grow up now and leave those foolish, youthful diversions behind. Don’t fall for that. I’m here to tell you that those foolish diversions are the real nectar of life. Don’t relegate them to the good old days. Take them with you, keep creating good old days.

The only reason profound insights resonate with us is because at some level, we already know them. Somewhere deep inside we all share the secrets of the world. How you live your life depends on how many of those secrets will be revealed to you. Pursuing knowledge and responsibility gets you halfway there. The other half can only be tapped by being a glorious and wonderful fool.

Always nurture a healthy contempt for maturity and levelheadedness. The world out there cultivates conformity and cynicism but you don’t have to. Take a stand, put up a fight, be a fool. ”

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