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3 Things Forrest Gump Teaches Us About Authenticity

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3 Things Forrest Gump Teaches Us About Authenticity

The movie Forrest Gump is a brilliant depiction of an underdog who overcomes the odds. Not only does Forrest – the main character in the eponymous film – succeed despite his own shortcomings, but he succeeds despite the ridicule of others. 

If you don’t remember the plot of the story, here’s an abbreviated version: Forrest is born in the deep South during segregation times. He is handicapped, mentally slow, and fatherless (well, he doesn’t know he’s fatherless – his mom just tells him his dad is “on vacation”). Forrest is made fun of relentlessly and nobody wants to sit next to him on the bus – except a little girl named “Jennie,” who Forrest falls in love with and pursues the rest of his life. Forrest miraculously overcomes his handicap and, over the course of the movie, experiences a series of extraordinary moments and events that seem almost too good to be true. He wins a scholarship to play football, becomes a decorated war hero, takes over a shrimping business and becomes a millionaire, and finally wins Jennie – and fathers a son with her – before she passes away. Forrest is a true – and unlikely – American hero.

Although most discussions of Forrest Gump seem to be centered around him as an “underdog,” I believe it is actually his authenticity that is his most striking attribute. Here are 3 things his character teaches us about being true to our most authentic selves:

  1. When you’re authentic, some people will make fun of you. Forrest never tried to be anyone other than who he was – and that earned him ridicule from classmates, fellow soldiers, and various people throughout his life. They called him “stupid” and were stunned that he could succeed despite their labels of him and low expectations about his life. Likewise, if you and I are attempting to be authentic regardless of our backgrounds (or of whether people think we’re smart or not) some will ridicule us because we’re not like them. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t let it bother us as their opinions of us don’t determine our destinies.
  1. When you’re authentic, you often end up doing the unexpected – and sometimes the extraordinary. Throughout his life, Forrest wasn’t plotting and planning his way to money, power, or success, yet he got those things anyway. He was simply always trying to be who he was, trying to be a good person, and trying to do the right things at all times. For example, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor and became a millionaire simply because he was trying to help others around him. For us, if we develop integrity as an attribute and follow through on supporting those around us, we will find ourselves in positions of greater influence – and will receive rewards we might never respect. I have found this to be true in my own life especially when I take my eyes off of myself and focus on simply doing the right things (the benefits that flow from doing this have often been immense).
  1. When you’re authentic, others will be inspired by you eventually. Even though Forrest was made fun of and just concentrated on doing what he felt to be right, he became a source of inspiration for others. He became an example for them. He became a north star so to speak. But why? People who formerly ridiculed him – like “Lieutenant Dan” who was his commanding officer in the Vietnam war – eventually saw how real he was and left everything behind to go work for him. When you and I are being authentic, we may not realize it but other people are paying close attention and some may be motivated to be better people in their own lives simply because they are observing us trying to be better in our own.

Forrest Gump is a film that teaches us many life lessons, but being authentic is one of the most important. Yes, we might be made fun of when we are trying to be authentic. But it will always be worth it because we will often end up doing unexpectedly great things and often inspire others along the way – even those who previously ridiculed us. 

Dr. Rob Carpenter - known simply as “Dr. Rob” - is a transformational author, filmmaker, and CEO whose mission is to entertain, empower, and uplift people and humanity.

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Entertainment

3 Things Divergent Teaches Us About Making Choices

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3 Things Divergent Teaches Us About Making Choices

Divergent is a wonderful book and movie series that has made a huge splash across the world. Not only did the film gross hundreds of millions at the box office, but it made a lot of people stop and think about the kinds of choices they make in their own lives – a rare accomplishment for a blockbuster film.

Here is a quick recap of the film in case you haven’t seen it – or in case you haven’t seen it in a while. Tris Prior, a teen in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, has to make a decision about which “Faction” she wants to live in for the rest of her life after she undergoes an aptitude test. (Factions are divisions within Chicago that require people to live and work only with those who have similar aptitudes and values as themselves. The factions include the brave (“Dauntless”), intelligent (“Erudite”), kind (“Amity”), selfless (“Abnegation”), and honest (“Candor”).) Tris, who comes from the selfless faction (Abnegation), is expected to stay in it but instead chooses the brave faction (Dauntless) to the surprise of almost everyone. And when she does choose Dauntless, she embarks on the ride of her life. 

Trist goes to train with Dauntless – leaving her family behind – and soon seems outmatched by just about everybody there. But while she’s training and slowly improving her Dauntless skills, she takes a sudden romantic interest in her trainer, Four (aka Tobias), who also takes an interest in her. It turns out that not only are both of them previously from the selfless faction Abgnegation, but both are something society considers extremely dangerous: they’re Divergent. (This means that, in their original aptitude test, they test equally for aptitude and skill for all factions – potentially putting them in a position to threaten the power structure by uniting the factions behind them instead of the current rulers). Once the leader of Chicago, Jeanie Matthews, finds out Trish is Divergent she makes it her mission to bring her down because she believes Trish is the only one capable to stop the new mind control program Jeanie is planning to release on the City.

What we see throughout the film is that Trish must make choice after choice – about her identity, about where she feels she belongs and fits in, and about whether she will risk her life to save the factions from Jeanie Matthews. But beyond Trish’s own bravery, what can you and I learn from her about how we also can make decisive choices in our own lives?

  1. We must all make many choices – all the time – so we have to get good at it. In the film, Trish has to decide on leaving her family, joining a new faction, getting a new boyfriend, and working to stop Jeanie. All of these things are major decisions not only for a teenager like her, but would be for anybody. In fact, even one of these things would be difficult to make a decision about. Nevertheless, Trish shows that even though she is conflicted and uncertain in the choices she’s making, she still decides to make them. And with each choice, she seems to get better and better in weighing the pros and cons of situations (i.e., she seems to get more strategic and less impulsive in her actions). Likewise in our own lives, we will have to make a series of decisions and choices and we will have to get better at making them if we are to positively step into our futures just like Trish (and not just stumble into them).
  1. When we make decisions, we will always disappoint someone. Trish’s decisions disappointed countless people. She disappointed her family when she decided to leave her original faction for another; she disappointed her new faction because, as it turns out, she was a threat to it (as she was Divergent); and she disappointed Four and Jeanie multiple times because she had to make the best choices for herself that not everybody understood. In our own lives, we will also make decisions that not everybody will understand either and as a result, we will end up disappointing them. We can’t please everyone and we will have to get used to various people who might find fault or take issue with us on a regular basis.
  1. We must constantly justify our choices – to ourselves. Even though Trish thought she made the right choices in choosing a new faction, choosing to oppose Jeanie, and the like, she questioned herself for doing it. She wasn’t sure she was right all of the time and went back and forth in her mind (and emotions) because of it. Trish had to justify why she was doing what she was doing because of the internal – and external – conflict she was experiencing. For you and me, we will also experience resistance and will have to justify to ourselves our decisions. We should understand that this is normal and not something that we should be concerned about – we will just have to work through our choices knowing that, at times, we will wonder if we’ve done the right thing.

Ultimately, Divergent and Trish teach us many great things about how to make decisions. But knowing that we should get good at making decisions, that we will disappoint others when we do, and that we will have to justify these decisions are three of the most important. 

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3 Things Bridesmaids Teaches Us About Friendship

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3 Things Bridesmaids Teaches Us About Friendship

When the film Bridesmaids appeared in theaters, it was an instant hit. People called it the female Hangover, but I think that’s too limiting. The film stands on its own as a great piece of cinema and a heck of a fun movie to watch.

The film follows the story of a failed baker, Annie, who is invited to be the maid of honor for her best friend Lillian. The problem is that Lillian now has a new rich and seemingly perfect friend, Helen, who wants to plan the wedding herself and all of the events leading up to the wedding. Naturally, tensions reach a boiling point between Annie and Lillian and as a result Annie not only almost misses the wedding, but she almost loses her friendship with Lillian. Nevertheless, the two are able to reconcile and Annie ends up making Lillian’s wedding as her maid of honor.

What can you and I learn about friendship from this great movie?

  1. Our closest friendships will always be challenged at some point. Even though Annie grew up with Lillian and they were best friends, Helen also wanted to be Lillian’s best friend too. This made Annie extremely jealous and insecure, so much so that it almost cost Annie and Lillian their friendship – and Annie’s freedom. Because Annie couldn’t handle the challenge that Helen presented to her, she acted out and did a few unnecessary things that got her arrested and put a bad taste in Lillian’s mouth. Likewise in our own lives, our closest friendships will at some point be challenged by a third voice like Helen’s. This may not happen always or often, but when or if it does we will definitely know when our Helen arrives and starts taking up more time with our bestie. I remember a time this occurred in my own life and it is needless to say pretty awkward and uncomfortable. But just know that it does happen from time to time and that we don’t have to act out like Annie with jealousy or insecurity toward people like Helen who are friends with our friends. 
  1. Our friends will not always like each other – and we don’t have to force them to. Annie and Helen didn’t like each other from the beginning, and that really bothered both of them. But you know who it didn’t bother? It didn’t bother Lillian, their mutual friend (who would prefer they get along but it wasn’t a prerequisite for her). Lillian was okay to have Annie fill a certain role in her life while Helen filled a different role in her life. Even though Annie and Helen wanted to have bigger roles, it wasn’t their decision – it was Lillian’s. In our own lives, we might have friends who may not like each other and we will have to see that we don’t necessarily have to try to make them like each other (even though that would be helpful). A friend of a friend is not always our friend – but, if we’re fortunate, they might be one day.
  1. We will have to give up our “friend ego” if our friend does get a new friend (or friends). Both Annie and Helen clearly had egos about their relationship with Lillian. In other words, they clearly had marked their turf with Lillian and they didn’t want each other – or anyone else – to get on that turf. However, that’s simply not realistic in real life. We will have to be more humble if our friends do get other friends and can’t be possessive of them or assume that we own them just because they’re our friends. They’re our friends because we get along with them and because we provide mutual value to each other’s lives – and if somebody else other than us provides value to their life, we should be happy about that, not upset.

Ultimately, Bridesmaids teaches us many great lessons about friendship. But 3 of the biggest are realizing that close friendships will be challenged from time to time; that our friends may not always like each other; and that we will have to be more humble if our friends do get new friends if we want them to be happy. 

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3 Things Disney’s Mulan Remake Teaches Us About Bravery

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3 Things Disney’s Mulan Remake Teaches Us About Bravery

In March of 2020 – right prior to the coronavirus pandemic – I had the opportunity to take in a special screening of Disney’s $200 million dollar epic remake of its classic children’s movie, Mulan. I was at the Directors Guild of America with the star and the director of the film who were very gracious with their time and answering my questions about their blockbuster.

In my opinion, Mulan is one of the best films I’ve seen and the fact that it was helmed by women (i.e., a woman director and top female crew) made it that much more special (this is a very rare thing in Hollywood unfortunately). The stunning visuals and cinematography; the fantastic fight scenes; the emotionally moving storyline and acting; and the themes of the movie all struck very powerful cords with me and I kept asking myself if I could be “brave, loyal, and true” like Mulan.

In case you haven’t seen the movie yet on Disney+, here is a quick recap. In an ancient province in China, Mulan is set to be matched for marriage by a matchmaker who deems that she is a bad daughter because of an accident at the matchmaker’s house. As a result, the matchmaker refuses to match Mulan. Meanwhile, a war is being declared on the kingdom and all of the young men are called to battle. Every family must submit one young man to fight, but because Mulan’s family has no boys her father volunteers. However, before he can go off to war, Mulan steals his gear and weapons and rides off to go train with the army. Shockingly, they don’t know she is a girl and she surpasses the expectations of all of the other young men. It is going well until Mulan is exposed as a girl and is banished by the army. However, she comes back to warn them of something she discovers in the wilderness that turns out to be a strategic advantage for them – and she even uses that knowledge to personally help the army (and the emperor) win victory over the enemy. 

Given all of Mulan’s many lessons about bravery, what can you and I learn from her so that we can be more brave in our own lives? 

  1. If we want to be brave like Mulan, people will doubt us. Mulan was doubted not only by the matchmaker (i.e., that she couldn’t be a good daughter or wife), but when she snuck off for war she was doubted by her father (i.e., that she wouldn’t make it home alive) and army that she could be a skilled and effective warrior (i.e., women are not supposed to be these things). But despite all of this doubt from others, Mulan proved herself through her commitment and actions and made everyone believe in her by the time of the end of the movie. Likewise for us, if we are going to be brave, not only will strangers likely doubt us, but so will our own family and colleagues. We will have to stick it out for the long run to show them that their worries were ill founded and that we are brave and victorious warriors like Mulan. 
  1. If we want to be brave like Mulan, people will test us. Even though Mulan showed incredible courage, she was constantly tested about whether she would be “brave, loyal, and true.” At home, in the army, in victory, and with the emperor, Mulan had to consistently demonstrate bravery to various people over and over again. She was brave, for example, when she admitted to her commanders in the army that she was a woman. And she was also brave when she told the emperor she could not accept a position from him after she saved his life (and the kingdom) because she had to make things right with her father (i.e., for stealing his gear and running away to take his place in the war). For you and me, we will have to demonstrate bravery not just once or twice, but all of the time – or at least regularly. 
  1. If we want to be brave like Mulan, we will have to accept that rewards will come – eventually. Throughout the course of her journey, Mulan not only experienced setbacks and disappointments, but she also experienced victories and rewards she walked away from because she had to do the noble thing (i.e., honoring her dad by turning down the emperor’s offer to stay in his royal guard). In our own lives, we will have to see that our rewards for being brave may not always come right away – or we might have to walk away from some rewards initially- in order to see even greater rewards down the line. For Mulan, even though she walked away from the emperor he pursued her after she made things right with her father and still rewarded her (which eventually let her fulfill her destiny).

Of course, there are other things Mulan can teach us about bravery, but these 3 stand out to me. If we want to be brave like Mulan, we will have to accept that people will doubt us, test us, and tempt us with rewards that we may have to walk away from to get the even greater rewards that bravery affords in the long run. 

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