Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everybody else.Margaret Mead
A video tribute to actor Keanu Reeves came across my feed the other day on LinkedIn. In it, Reeves is shown in some interviews and still shots through his career with text describing his struggles as well as various examples of his humility and kindness. In one snippet, he describes himself as “simple.”
The message is inspirational and simple: be humble and kind. Be a good human being. It is a good message. However, what really struck me about the video and its message is that Keanu Reeves is not simple. None of us are. We may seek to live simply, but what makes us run, what motivates us, and how we react to the world, are not simple. We are incredibly complex.
The world sees Keanu Reeves through his style, his approach, his demeanor, and his actions. Combined, these elements create a particular impression. A complex blend of personality traits and choices as perceived by other people creates his persona – his reputation. The impression he leaves is a reflection of who he is as well as how we see him and the world at large. We see him simply in a 60 second video but his story, and person, are far bigger than those soundbites.
We are all complex. There are really good people out there who are not particularly endearing. There are also really bad people who capture our imagination, sometimes even when we know they are ‘bad.’ Rarely do we have the full story – good or bad. As much as we want to break it into small, repeatable pieces, it simply doesn’t work.
Keanu Reeves’ approach works for Keanu Reeves because of who he is but it might not work for the rest of us. His blend of humility and kindness is compelling; his seemingly simple disposition fits him and resonates with us. The problem for those who seek to emulate him is that, as much as we try, we will never combine all of his traits into our own style or approach. We can work to be humble and kind, but we will never bring it the same way as Keanu Reeves. It is part of what makes him unique. What works for Keanu Reeves likely won’t work for us.
Our paths are as unique as our personalities. As a society, we seek to emulate the traits of admirable and successful people. And, to some degree, we can; however those unique stories are singular. As singular as you and your life. The tips, tricks, hacks, roadmaps, guides, and recipes we follow to get us to the life we desire will only ever be suggestions for a journey only we can fulfill. We are ultimately the only architects of our future self and our future life. There is no formula for the unique being that we are or the one we will become.
So emulate Reeves’s humility. Or Gates’ ambition. Or Mother Teresa’s kindness. Or Einstein’s genius. Or Jordan’s tenacity. Or your Mom’s patience. There are so many great examples of great human beings. Just know that you will never capture their unique je ne sais quoi. Nor will you fulfill your own while you’re trying to be someone else. Own your strengths and your weaknesses. Embrace your gifts and your struggles. Then focus on being the absolute best version of you that you can possibly be. Perhaps there is an even more compelling version of ‘humble and kind’ within you or maybe something even better. Perhaps yours is the example the rest of us need to see to inspire us on to our best selves.
You will never do Keanu Reeves as well as Keanu Reeves. But you can do you like no one else. Be like no one else.