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What Everyone Could Learn From Leonardo DiCaprio

What Everyone Could Learn From Leonardo DiCaprio

A collective sigh of sympathy went out to Leonardo DiCaprio when he failed yet again to win an Oscar for The Wolf of Wall Street. I was shaking my head in empathy. Hang on. Did I say empathy? Yes, I was reacting to what I thought he must be feeling. Okay, it’s not  easy to put myself in his shoes, much less see the world through his eyes, but you know what I mean.

We’ve all experienced a painful loss — a job promotion, admission to a dream university, a much needed scholarship, a financial investment or a lasting relationship. The big difference is Leonardo DiCaprio’s losses make headlines.

He most probably is disappointed over his latest Oscar miss. But I bet he is already moving on to his next project in film, philanthropy or environmental activism.

Skeptical? Let his words throughout his career support my bet, and let’s pick up lessons along the way too.

“My mom, Irmelin, taught me the value of life.  Her own life was saved by my grandmother during World War II.”

DiCaprio grew up with his mother who remained friends with his father after the couple divorced when Leo was a toddler. Both parents shared in his upbringing and encouraged creativity. His mother was born in Germany, moved to the U.S. in the 1950s and worked as a legal secretary. DiCarpio remains close to his mom. She was his “date” at Oscar night.

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Leo knows about valuing life. Dwelling on loss would be a waste of precious time. 

“Brothers don’t necessarily have to say anything to each other — they can sit in a room and be together and just be completely comfortable with each other.”

An only child, DiCaprio has a close friendship with fellow actor Tobey McGuire, which began when they were auditioning for the same child actor roles in the 1980s. He also keeps a regular close group of friends.

Leo’s enduring friendship with a professional rival shows no grudges over missed roles or awards.  Friendships and relationships carry more weight than personal loss.

“Don’t think for a moment that I’m really like any of the characters I’ve played.  I’m not.  That’s why it’s called acting.”

DiCaprio’s portrayals of fictional and real life characters are not easily forgotten. Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Catch Me if You Can) and Danny Archer (Blood Diamond) are, to me, the most poignant. He chooses film projects not by genre but based on how interesting the character is.

Leo has no attachments to roles or awards. Devastation over a loss comes mostly from a perceived attachment. 

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 “I’m not the kind of person who tries to be cool or trendy, I’m definitely an individual.”

A maverick is how he is described. While other leading men get comfortable working for years in an action franchise, DiCaprio does not mind doing supporting roles and is not afraid to play hateful protagonists and villains. He knows what moves him and does not go with the crowd.

Leo will not allow the Oscars to define who he is. Self-awareness keeps you centered in who you are.

“Drugs?  Everyone has a choice and I choose not to do drugs.”

DiCaprio has had his share of drinking and partying in the 1990’s but states he has never done drugs. Seeing drugs at an early age and growing up poor helped him make the decision not to go in that direction.

Leo used a difficult situation to make a wise choice. Wisdom comes from awareness, courage and commitment to a decision.

“I just really love doing what I do. I know every career is fleeting and there will be time periods when I don’t get the opportunities that I’m getting right now, so I’m taking advantage of them.”

DiCaprio is also a film producer and has worked with respected directors James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.

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Leo understands the financial and creative aspects of the film industry. Losing an Oscar will not stop him from finding — or making — the next big opportunity. With purpose and ideas, a loss becomes irrelevant.

“I’m just starting to scratch the surface of what really makes me happy and it’s taken me a while to admit that acting like a little child and being a jerk and a punk is fun.”

These words may have come when DiCaprio was younger but it shows maturity — wanting to learn about himself, accepting his discoveries, and not taking himself too seriously. He has stayed connected with his parents and he has real friends to relax and act like a child with.

Leo has other pursuits beyond movie making, and losing an Oscar will not make a big dent in his life. Developing all areas of life enriches perspectives, making any loss purely incidental.

“You can either be a vain movie star, or you can try to shed some light on different aspects of the human condition.” (and) “Raising awareness on the most pressing environmental issues of our time is more important than ever.”

DiCaprio is among the first actors who has put fame to meaningful use by bringing public awareness to environmental and humanitarian concerns utilizing media projects, campaigns and grants. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation gave a US$3 million grant to Oceana, an advocacy group working for the world’s oceans.

Leo’s philanthropy and environmental activism seeks to positively affect large parts of the world population. Losing an Oscar is trivial. Being aware of a greater need makes you realize how much you actually have and cuts your disappointment down to size.

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What about his Oscar-losing streak?  Statistics-wise, a series of losses means he is close to winning.  But law of probabilities aside, the fact remains:  losing an Oscar is not an obstacle for Leonardo DiCaprio to continue living a highly successful and meaningful life.

So the next time you think “Poor Leo” (or the more common variation, “Poor Me”), think again.

Featured photo credit: Izzie August 344 via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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