Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Change the World from Here

I recently took my eldest son, Jaxson, on his first college visit.  He had expressed an interest in the University of San Francisco, so off we went for a weekend adventure in the Bay Area.  The campus was beautiful, as was the surrounding city.  But what really sticks out in my mind is the school’s motto, “Change The World From Here.”  Whether you’re attending USF or following the Live to Give mindset, it’s a great message.  After our visit, we drove a couple of hours south to the famous Pebble Beach golf course.  Our amazing experience there begins with this story…

The fifth of nine children, William was born to Irish-American parents in a suburb of Chicago.  His father, Edward, was a lumber salesman and avid golfer who had once caddied for a former US Open champion.  Edward had also been a groundskeeper before becoming a golf club member, and his love for the game would be adopted by several of his sons, including William. 

Growing up in the claustrophobic household, the nine siblings competed constantly for their parents’ attention.  In particular, the children tried without much success to get laughs from their father.  Once, while imitating a famous actor, William fell off a table and banged his foot hard on the metal leg.  He saw his father laughing, and it made a powerful impression on him to realize that throwing yourself into being funny was what got a response.

William was also a self-proclaimed troublemaker.  At school, his affinity for acting out to get laughs wasn’t well received by his teachers, who called him a brilliant but terrible student.  He played sports, did some acting, and sang in a local rock band, but was never as focused on any of it as he was on entertaining his peers.  To earn extra money, he caddied at the local golf course, where one of the perks was playing golf for free.

William left Chicago after high school, enrolling at a university in Denver, Colorado, to study pre-med.  However, when he learned how many of his fellow students were interested in medicine for the money, and not out of a desire to help people, it soured his feelings for the program.  Not long after, he returned to Chicago in search of a new direction.

By this time, William’s brother Brian had become part of Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe.  With no other plans, William decided to try comedy as well.  At Second City, he took part in nightly improvisational games that made the childhood memories of committing to his comedy relevant again.  William honed his craft over the course of more than five hundred performances, before finally making the leap to New York and into the national spotlight.

William “Bill” Murray is arguably the funniest comedian to have ascended through the cast of Saturday Night Live.  His dry, deadpan style has been mimicked by thousands of comics, and he has starred in some of the most iconic films of the last thirty years, including Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters (one of the highest-grossing comedies ever), and Lost In Translation, for which he won a Golden Globe.

Bill Murray remains a private person who is intentionally hard to reach.  He gives few interviews and rarely shows up for red-carpet events.  He has no agent or publicist, instead maintaining a 1‑800 phone number where he takes messages regarding acting projects (if he’s interested, he calls back).  Despite being an apparent recluse, Bill has turned public appearances into a sort of joyful performance art, spreading spontaneous fun and keeping with the unpredictability of his Second City years.

You can imagine my excitement when Jaxson and I arrived at Pebble Beach to walk 18 holes of golf with Bill Murray during the AT&T Pro-Am golf tournament.  Making this happen was no small feat, but that’s another story.  Bill talked to us for hours.  He was funny, engaging, and even invited me onto the green to help him read a birdie putt.  He made us feel like we were the center of his attention, even while managing to entertain millions of TV viewers and thousands of fans that came to meet the legend.

After a six-hour day, I couldn’t help but ask for some advice I could share with you on how to live your dreams.  His response was classic Bill Murray:  “Hum every morning, do what you love, try and make people smile, and if all else fails, sell your soul.”  

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

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