Many would know Ang Lee: 2013 Oscar recipient for Best Director, and his film, Life Of Pi, for scoring a total of 4 Oscars against the odds. Some might remember him for his other smash hit, Brokeback Mountain and its 3 Oscar wins, including again Best Director. But how many of us will know of Ang Lee: The Broken & Bitter 30-year old.
” It was nearly unheard of for a Chinese newcomer to make it in the American film industry. Beginning in 1983, I struggled through six years of agonizing, hopeless uncertainty. Much of the time, I was helping film crews with their equipment or working as editor’s assistant, among other miscellaneous duties. My most painful experience involved shopping a screenplay at more than thirty different production companies, and being met with harsh rejection each time.
That year, I turned 30. There’s an old Chinese saying: ‘At 30, one stands firm.’ Yet, I couldn’t even support myself. What could I do? Keep waiting, or give up my movie-making dream? My wife gave me invaluable support.”
Source: Irene Shih
This was actually written/translated into English after the Oscar presentation in 2006. But fast forward to 2013, and the message shines just as bright. Ang Lee did not achieve his success overnight, nor did he achieve his dreams in a single year. It took him six years of fighting against self doubt, social stigma, family objection, constant failures, and actually giving up and climbing back up again, before he became who he is today.
His life story, his journey, stands tribute and testament to the power of perseverance, dedication and belief. If you forget what your dream is, then what else is there to live for.
Throughout all this negativity, he found a bright spark – his wife. All at once, she became anchor, muse, life coach and the constant pillar of support that kept him going. And I think there is a valuable lesson for all of us here today.
For anyone out here with a dream of doing something big, something different (including myself), find that anchor. I believe it can be anything, not just a person. Some find solace in religion, in smaller successes, in learning from defeat. Whatever it is, FIND IT. And when you do, hang on to it. I do not believe anyone can succeed just by trying to be strong for himself, because he can still crumble and lay broken under the pressure. But if someone/something else is there, not under the same pressure, it can help you back to your feet, or lend you the support you need to fight those pressures.
So for all those out there trying to make a difference in their own lives or others, find your anchor, and keep fighting the good fight. The world will be a better place with your contributions.
And for those out there who know someone going through a tough time, remember the difference you can make. A simple word of encouragement, a simple smile… who knows, the person you help might be the next Ang Lee.
- Jiro: What It Means To Be Shokunin (wilsonkhoo.wordpress.com)
- Neil Gaiman Commencement Speech (wilsonkhoo.wordpress.com)
- In The Midst Of Winter (wilsonkhoo.wordpress.com)