Ang Lee: A Never-Ending Dream

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.

Image” 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.

Check out the rest of the excerpt here – A Never Ending Dream (Credit: / Irene Shih for translation)

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Jiro Dreams Of Sushi – What It Means To Be Shokunin

86 year old Jiro wakes up every morning and goes to work. He works not because he has too, but because his craft defines who he is. He wants to improve, to continually improve. He is already the best in the world, the best in the business, yet he wakes up everyday appreciating the basic truth that drives him to work everyday – He has not achieved perfection. In his own words, “All I want to do is make better sushi.”

He is truly one of the few individuals in the world who have reached this higher level of understanding. To rise above narrow thought of competition and find the essence of what drives the individual. You can look at the person running ahead of you, you can look at the person catching up behind you, but you will never have peace, nor reach the pinnacle of your craft, until you learn that you are only really racing with yourself.

That is when you let go of the world around you and let your own ability define who you are. This is where you enter the realm of the shokunin, the realm of true champions.

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Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Speech

Neil Gaiman’s advice to the 2012 graduating students from the University of the Arts.

Don’t be too stuck up on rules and your past failures, life is hard, things go wrong. And when things get tough, make good art. Husband runs off with a politician, make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor, make good art. IRS on your trail, make good art. Cat exploded, make good art. Someone on the internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before, make good art. Do what only you can do best, make good art.
Thanks Neil.