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5 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn From Keanu Reeves

5 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn From Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves: actor, producer, musician, meme, conspiracy theorist and notorious introvert. Throughout his life, Keanu seems to have experienced more extremes than any one person could handle. From achieving fame to losing those closest to him, Keanu Reeves’ story is arguably more interesting than any of the roles he has played in his long acting career. Here are five lessons we can learn from Keanu’s extraordinary life, and apply to our own to make the world a better place:

1. A Difficult Start Does Not Define The Rest Of Your Life.

Born in 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon to an English mother Patricia Bond (née Taylor) and Hawaiian father Samuel Nowlin Reeves, Keanu Charles Reeves’ life began with an instability that would last throughout his childhood and teenage years. When Keanu was three-years-old his father, who would later be placed in prison for selling heroin at Hilo International Airport, abandoned their family.

In 2000, Keanu told Rolling Stone: “Jesus, man. No, the story with me and my dad’s pretty heavy. It’s full of pain and woe and f*cking loss and all that sh*t.”

After the divorce, Patricia became a costume designer and subsequently travelled around the world with her children. Keanu, his sisters and their mother lived in Sydney, Australia followed by New York City and eventually settled in Toronto, Canada, locations based largely upon who she was married to at the time. Keanu attended four high schools in the space of five years including Etobicoke School of the Arts, which he was expelled from.

Keanu would later tell Kevin J. Koffler: “I was just a little too rambunctious and shot my mouth off once too often. I was not generally the most well-oiled machine in the school.”

Keanu was often far better at sports than his academic studies, possibly due to his dsylexia. He was especially good at ice hockey which he once planned to play professionally but an injury prevented his dream from coming true.

Having performed in various theatre productions since the age of nine, Keanu had had the acting for the majority of his young life by the time he reached his fourth high school Avondale Secondary Alternative School which he later dropped out to pursue a career in film.

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Although Keanu didn’t begin his life in a stable, typical family environment he grew into a man who takes responsibility for his own life and decisions. Where many may have sunk into the backgrounds of the various places they visited or even resented their upbringing, it seems that Keanu chose to find stability in chasing his own aspirations.

Many of us begin our journeys on rocky ground, but you get to decide how the rest of your life will be.

2. A Generous Spirit Can Be More Rewarding Than Riches.

After moving to LA in 1986, Keanu scored his breakthrough role in a movie entitled ‘River’s Edge‘. He then went on to appear in both Bill and Ted movies, Point Break, Speed, A Walk In The Clouds, The Devil’s Advocate, The Replacement, and of course: The Matrix. It’s estimated that Keanu made about $10 million up-front having stared in The Matrix, which increased to $35 million when the back-end deal was made. After the sequels, Keanu is thought to have made about $110 million, $75 million of which he reportedly gave to the special effects team and costume design department. He also bought the entire stunt team their own Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Regarding Keanu’s generosity, a Reddit user wrote: “A family friend builds movie sets, doesn’t design, is one of the poor dudes that just builds. Anyways he worked on the set for the Matrix and Keanu heard about family trouble he was having and gave him a $20,000 Christmas bonus to help him out. He also was one of the only people on the set that genuinely wanted to know people’s names, would say hello and mean it, and would talk to people as they were his peers and not below him just because they were practically making nothing to build a set. I’ve never heard anyone say Keanu is douche, seems like the nicest person in Hollywood from a second hand experience.”

Over the years, Keanu has given millions to charities including PETA, the SickKids Foundation, and Stand Up To Cancer. His sister Kim has been battling Leukaemia for ten years, and Keanu has ensured she has all the help she needs by donating $5 million. He also set up a private Cancer Foundation that aids a few children’s hospitals as well as cancer research. Keanu never attaches his name to his charitable donations or gifts and never takes credit: it simply seems to be a part of his life.

In a 2003 interview with Hello! Magazine Keanu said: “Money is the last thing I think about. I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries.”

Have you ever imagined how you would spend your money if you were to win millions? Would you buy a huge house, an array of sports cars, pay off your debts or ensure your friends and family are set for life? I know I would do all of those things! Of course, I would also give money to charities, but would I give as much as some others would? Should I?

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There are many difficult questions that arise when we consider how rich some people are in comparison to billions of people who can barely get by or the causes that need constant funding to make the world a better place. Keanu is undoubtedly a generous, wonderful spirit who will hopefully inspire more people to share their wealth, whether they are wealthy in money, time or spirit: will you?

3. Let Passion Drive You, Not Money.

Although it may seem like a great motive to act, few people go into the profession for the money. Keanu is a prime example of this and always seems to have put his personal ambitions, morals and preferences before simply taking a job to make money. Even early on in his career he would often only act in commercials that he himself liked.

Perhaps the most famous example of Keanu’s ‘do what you love’ spirit is found when he dismissed $11 million to be in the Speed sequel or a chance to star alongside Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino in the 1995 movie Heat. Instead Keanu chose to partake in a small production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, Canada.

Of Keanu’s performance, The Sunday Times theatre reviewer Roger Lewis said: “He quite embodied the innocence, the splendid fury, the animal grace of the leaps and bounds, the emotional violence, that form the Prince of Denmark … He is one of the top three Hamlets I have seen, for a simple reason: he is Hamlet.”

Of course, money and passion are not exclusive: it is entirely possible to have both. However, many people these days are pressured to believe money is far more important than happiness. After all, happiness can not feed you, happiness can not put a roof over your head and happiness cannot ensure you live comfortably.

Money may be a fantastic motivator for many but despite the financial losses you may endure: do you really want to waste this one life you live being miserable but comfortable? Or do you want to live by your own terms, follow your passion and take a risk that could result in a combination of everything you’ve ever wanted?

4. You Will Lose People, But Do Not Lose Yourself.

Before Keanu really became the incredibly famous actor he is today, he starred in the 1989 Steve Martin comedy Parenthood. Through this film Keanu met a man who would soon become one of his greatest friends: River Phoenix.

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“Actually, I met Keanu through my ex-girlfriend Martha [Plimpton] while they were doing Parenthood — they were sucking face regularly,” River once told Interview Magazine. “My brother, Joaquin [Phoenix], otherwise known as Leaf, was also in it. So, Leaf and Martha were his buddies before I was even a friend of his. Then I met up with him on I Love You to Death. And I liked the guy. I wanted to work with him. He’s like my older brother. But shorter.”

Keanu in turn told reporters: “I enjoyed his company. Very much. And enjoyed his mind and his spirit and his soul. We brought good out in each other. He was a real original thinker. He was not the status quo. In anything.”

After starring together in I Love You To Death, the pair worked together on Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, where they would often spend nights on the street to get into character, however River went further into the seedy underworld than his co-worker and friend. River began using heroin and later overdosed in 1993 on a lethal mixture of cocaine, morphine and valium outside The Viper Room. Keanu rarely talks about his friends’ death.

Later that same decade, as Keanu began production on The Matrix, he met a young actress named Jennifer Syme at a party. By the time The Matrix was premiering around the world the two were deeply in love and expecting their first child. However, in December 1999 Ava Archer Syme-Reeves was stillborn.

Unable to recover from the grief of losing their child, the couple broke up and Jennifer became a record executive and assistant to Marilyn Manson. On April 2, 2001 Jennifer passed out at the wheel of her Jeep Cherokee and collided with three parked cards, rolling the vehicle and killing her instantly. Police found several prescription bottles in her car, whilst toxicologists found a concoction of cocaine, clonzepam and cyclobenzaprine in her system.

In an interview with Parade in 2006, Keanu said: “I miss being a part of their lives and them being part of mine. I wonder what the present would be like if they were here – what we might have done together. I miss all the great things that will never be.”

“I don’t want to flee from life, I know the beauty of it,” he continued. “I’m trying not to be alone so much. And, man, it’s a struggle. I want to get married. I want to have kids. That’s at the top of the mountain. I’ve got to climb the mountain first. I’ll do it. Just give me some time.”

There are times in your life where you will experience loss, pain, suffering, loneliness and devastation. When you are lost on the darkest paths of life, remember that you are strong enough to reach the end of the road. You are never alone, you can ask for help, you will get through this and come out into the light a braver, better person than you were before.

5. Be Excellent.

“Positive energy brings good feelings, and dark energy often means harm. But the destruction in dark energy is also a subtle aspect of construction, like how even forest fires have their benefits. Sometimes enemies are our best teachers, people can learn from their mistakes, destruction sometimes means rebirth.” – Keanu Reeves.

Despite the many tragedies that have woven their way into the seams of Keanu’s past he remains a positive force in this world. He is a generous, genuine, passionate and remarkably strong individual who breaks the mould and boundaries that are often imagined between the famous and the public.

Keanu is proof that a difficult start does not necessarily mean you will have a challenging life, and it certainly doesn’t entitle you to a bad attitude. There are many people around the world like him who would donate their time, energy and money to help those in need because life – not money – is their passion. And yes, sometimes you will experience real heartbreak and devastating events that will threaten to break you: but like Keanu says: you must be excellent to each other, and to yourself.

Featured photo credit: Keanu Reeves via moviestarspicture.com

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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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