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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 November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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