Broadening Our View:  An Afternoon with John Cleese

 Pulling ourselves out of the day to day can be difficult. We are mired down with our 9-5 job, responsibilities at home and with relationships. It’s easy to let days, weeks, and years go by without taking the time to develop our own interests and widen our view of the world. A few years ago I was in desperate need of anything that would pull me out of my day to day life and something that would develop me as a person. I had a narrow view of life and focus and it was causing me to get depressed and lifeless. I decided to try new things. Anything had to be better than where I was at the time.

 I started taking life long learning classes at a local college. Life long learning classes are affordable non-credit classes that anyone can take. You don’t have to be a college graduate to attend. There are a wide array of classes. I have attended classes on writing, classes taught by author’s on the history of their books, and one day workshops on various topics. These classes bring together people who want to grow and develop themselves and that’s a great place to be. 

 If you watch and listen carefully to others you can learn things that you would never have imagined. In one class I learned about the adventure of hiking down and back up the Grand Canyon. I had no idea what a challenge that trek is and how much preparation goes into preparing for the hike. I was exposed to a part of the world I didn’t know existed. 

 Yesterday I attended a talk by English comedian John Cleese at a local university. There are so many things we can glean from people who have achieved success in their life and lessons we can learn from people who are near the end of their career. For aspiring artists there is a lot we can learn about pursuing artistic goals from someone who achieved amazing success in their field. Here are a few lessons that I learned from listening to Mr. Cleese:

  • He had a respect in his voice for Peter Sellers. This made me want to learn more about Peter and his life. See what made him so respectable.
  • He attended Cambridge. First for science and then for law. I am listening to him speak as a world famous comedian. An occupation that seems far from Cambridge, yet his intelligence is woven into his comedy. It’s smart. His education has provided his artistic pursuits with depth. 
  • He went to a meeting to talk about doing a television show with no plan and came out being approved for 13 episodes for a show he had no plan for and no idea what to do. Him and his friends, who would become the Monty Python’s, responded by going out and writing and from that the show emerged.
  • Their criteria when writing was did it make them laugh?
  • John saw flaws in his critically acclaimed work, acknowledged them, and gave recommendations for improvements. He called parts rubbish.
  • The movie the Holy Grail ended the way it did because they didn’t have any other ideas for ending it. See, even the great’s don’t always come up with perfect ideas. 
  • Some of the characters they developed were versions of people they knew or saw in their life.
  • He figured out the key to marriage: don’t have kids. For anyone with adult children we can understand that advice. 

John isn’t afraid to broach sensitive subjects. He says that he can because is old and well doesn’t give a F anymore. An afternoon with John Cleese pulled me into his world for a short time. A world I am not familiar with. 

 I was exposed to ideas and concepts that were new to me. I was pulled out of my world and into his and it was beautiful! I didn’t go to hear someone speak that agrees with me, but to learn and grow from someone who is different from me. 

 We can find beauty in many things in this life. If we are going to grow and change we need to surround ourselves with things that are different from us. I share the common interests of life and death with John and a desire to achieve success in my pursuits. That was common enough ground for me to connect with him. The rest was a lesson in life. I came away having learned life and career lessons and with a wider view of a part of the world I am not exposed to. 

What can you do to achieve the same goal?  Find a class, read a book, listen to a podcast, do something that broadens your current view of the world?  These experiences help us to grow and develop who we are and confirm the path we are on in life so lets have them.


Marcy Pedersen




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