Well, you can be the funny man for years. You can beat the drink, or maybe it’s drugs. You can make lots of money; have some wonderful kids and a couple of marriages. You can be loved by just about anyone who has ever met you, seen you in a movie or on TV or the Stages. But at the end of the day, you can beat what’s broken inside. Thus we’ve lost Robin Williams, comedic genius, generous, loving person who was hysterically funny, manic, crazy. And did I mention he can act, getting an Oscar for "Good Will Hunting", but having moved us just the same in the many roles he played.
As we pull back from the hype and the tributes, we think about the difference he made in our lives, making us laugh, or think in different ways due to his boundless energy and creativity. We can focus on how making us laugh about something helped us forget that something else hurt. So comedians do this for themselves, perhaps early on feeling an outcast, they begin to learn that being funny can build a protective wall around you and enable you to get through things, get jobs, friends, a life.
But that feeling never leaves them, and inside along with all the hilarity is this broken part. Just like any of us who has a defective part, it never quite heals. Or, it can partially heal with a lot of work, maybe medication. It’s still inside there waiting. What do we learn for the sake of our personal brand? We learn that we must be in the moment, but not of the moment. We engage in the world around us, but somehow keep intact this vulnerable self. We must be able to clearly sense what is going on yet not let it become us, or affect us. This is hard to do; it’s a discipline and requires rigorous effort.
I remember some time ago, Williams made the movie “What Dreams May Come” and last night it seemed strangely prophetic that he would have played the husband who came back to convince his wife not to let go. Of course it was a role, but his entreaty is so heartfelt. In speaking about the movie Robin Williams said how hard it was to play that role. He leaves behind the volume of his work, his energy, his generous spirit. He also leaves some heartbroken family members. It reminds us that our personal brand is not just us, ourselves, but the part of us we leave with those we’ve loved.