There is an old Buddhist quote that says, “When the student is ready, a teacher will appear”. I’ve learned that we are all students, and all teachers, every waking day of our lives. Whatever we do, we set an example (we teach). Whatever others do, we observe (we’re students). So therefore it makes sense that whenever (whoever) you meet, you are both teacher and student.
If you know me personally, or meet me for the first time, you may notice that I am fully present with you – whoever you are. You bumped into me for a reason, and I do not take that lightly. I want to learn a bit from you. You have a fascinating life story. You have a biography wanting to be read. Everybody is on a path somewhere, and nobody is more important than anybody else. We are all on different paths to different destinations. Students. Teachers. All of us, all the time.
Today I reconnected with one of my teachers from Westchester High School. Doug Griffin was an incredible influence on me.
I was a dancer on-stage because of this gentleman right here. Doug Griffin was our choreographer. If you were in our productions, you were going to dance because Doug wanted huge numbers of people on stage dancing. So there I was, in a broadway style production, dancing with everybody. Jazz hands! Then connect, turn, turn, turn, walk step pivot step walk, walk, walk. Once again, from the top! Five six seven eight!
We did “A Chorus Line”. Looking back, it was one of the most awesome times of my life. If you saw the movie, “Fame”, that was us. High School For Performing Arts. I was string bass in orchestra, guitar in the jazz band, a tenor 1 in choir, and a second line dancer.
Today we met for breakfast. I had no idea he was now in Hollywood. He is a director of story development for Tim Story, a hugely successful director (Barbershop, Fantastic Four, Think Like A Man). Tim is a fellow Westchester High Alumni who also caught the “Doug Bug” and kept Doug closeby as a mentor and consultant as he zoomed to the top in Hollywood, directing movies with grosses in the hundreds of millions.
I told him a little of my life’s little coincidences that led my career. We both realize that people connect for a reason. We just never know it at the time, and we were trying to figure out why we had a mutual pulse to reconnect (we couldn’t figure it out). But we knew that there is some reason, because we both recognize how fate is never an accident. It is this underlying ether that (I believe) shapes our predetermined destinies. We can recognize the path or ignore it, but it is wiser to recognize and follow the path.
As Doug told me about Tim Story’s story, it reminded me so much of my friend Justin Macgregor. Tim liked doing little films. He put together a demo. Somehow this demo wound up being seen by somebody, and the next thing you know he is entrusted with doing a major feature film, directing Jessica Alba!
For whatever it is worth, I have shared Justin’s demo reel with these two. None of us ever count on anything, because I am trained (and am training others) to expect absolutely nothing from life. I expect no big returns on my efforts, I expect no extra courtesy because of what work I have accomplished, and I expect no open doors because of who I know. Life is more fulfilling this way, because everything good comes as a surprise, not as a relief.
It is impossible to be disappointed when you expect nothing.
(update July 12, 2015 – as soon as I had a story idea, I called Doug on the phone to ask his advice on writing a script. His guidance helped me to finish the screenplay in 18 days, and find a Script Agent shortly after)