Actor Shah Rukh Khan, who has been named a Chubb Fellow, addressed the students at the university of Yale. He spoke to them about happiness, success, failure and life. He told them about his journey in life and what he believes it takes to make your life succesfull. He even cracked a few jokes in between. We take a look at some parts of his speech.
SRK was suppose to give the students, 1500 of them, an inspirational talk. He said: “That worries me, it gives me performance anxiety. Here you are, 1500 of you, hoping to hear words of wisdom from this sexy, desirable man, who couldn’t kiss a girl, last time he was in Yale because it was too cold. But I’m not that guy, I mean, I’m sexy and desirable but I’m not about to leave you anymore inspired than when you walked in here.”
The Joke on Google
He started the lecture with a joke he had read on Google. Yes, he goes to Google and is currently looking for a new script there as well. “Anyway, the joke went like this – a dying man, gasping for breath, desperately gestured to the priest by his side for a piece of paper. With great effort, he then wrote a few words on it, handed it to the priest and passed away. The priest kept the paper in his pocket and forgot all about it until the final service. Here he suddenly recalled the dead man’s last scribble. Unfolding the paper, he told the funereal congregation that he was about to read great words of inspiration from the dying man. The piece of paper had these words on it – “You are standing on my oxygen tube…fool.”
So he continued: Don’t expect words of wisdom from me. Instead, I will tell you simple experiences of my life’s journey with simpler words, which may not leave you inspired, but will help you survive this life. And if you can do that – then happiness, creativity and success will follow on its own – or maybe not but you will have to live this life nevertheless. Only I hope my words will give you enough insight so that you can tell the world, “World move over, you are standing on my oxygen tube…move over and let me breathe.”
As for my destination, I don’t think I ever knew one. I walk, I run, in the direction of my dreams. Things change along the way, people change, I change, the world changes, even my dreams change. I don’t have a place to arrive, I just keep doing what I know how to do the best that I can do it.
My life has centred around my creativity. I have assimilated the world through creative expression and in return the world has experienced me. I have grown to understand that on one hand the world will always uphold creativity as the most honest feeling possible.
I am an actor; my life is a testament to this duality.
George Burns said that “Acting is all about honesty”. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. He couldn’t have defined it better. Honest and fake, yes that’s what I feel as a creative person all the time.
Let me tell you about my schizophrenia.
Creative expression comes from the deepest experience of the artist himself. A good artist cannot be separate from his creation. Good art is honest art. A man may be an artist, a writer, a sculptor, an actor or a totem pole carver. Whatever he is, if what he creates is true to himself, it becomes a vivid testimonial to human creativity. If it lacks honesty, its entire premise is a waste.
I momentarily lose my ability to give and close up. And here’s where the trick is – when you are in this place of despair, where the world is staring you down into yourself – there’s only one thing you can do to survive – hang on to who you are inside. The world will be unkind to you, it will not be able to see you. You must learn at such times, to be able to see yourself.
Do not try to feed your stomach with creativity; it is food for your soul, not your stomach. Do not be afraid to defy conventions. Do not be afraid to destroy systems that kill art and your souls. Do not be afraid to be hungry. Do not be afraid to walk alone if necessary. Because on a tightrope, we all walk alone. Remember, if you are a creator you are a funambulist and not very many people know that word, let alone be it.
I have everything I could have aspired for at your age, I have success, I have fame, I have wealth and I have three play stations – one for the house – one for shootings and one just because I can have it. But none of these have any consequence to my happiness, the only thing that does is the love of my children.
You don’t have children (I hope), but you have parents, you have people you love and nothing in this world of everything, means more than that. Happiness, in other words, lies in the things you will never be able to count.
To me, it is no more than cuddling up to my kids and watching iCarly or The Family Guy. Well most of the time anyway, the other day my son and I stumbled upon the Kamasutra on the net and I can tell you that experience was not very happy. He’s 14 and he knew more about it than I did. That sucked, yeah!
I want you to understand this business of happiness well because I know at one level, all parents are the actually the same. Some look sterner, some are less fun, some are embarrassingly weird, but for each parent the bottom and the top line of their lives is this – you kids are their greatest source of happiness.
Parents want nothing in return, just that you respect that feeling, that’s all.
Example of his kids
Take my own children. I believe that girls really are from planet Venus – my girl comes from a place of gentleness, caring, love, intelligence and all things beautiful. My boy comes from ‘I am too good to be your son’ planet. This will make me very unpopular, but I wanted to say this. If you take anything from this lecture, I want everyone to know: Boys are obnoxious. They are philandering, lying, cheating, sneering, snobs. Girls are good. I am not being sexist but that’s the truth.
I was in London shooting and missing my kids. Being from the boring school of people, who send writings to their kids in the hope of making them better human beings, I sent my daughter this verse from a poem by E.E. Cummings:
I do not know what it is about you that closes and opens,
only something in me understands
The voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses,
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
Reply of a daughter
I instantly received this text message in return, “I love it papa. It is beautiful. I am going to write it in my secret diary with the secret lock and keep it in my secret hiding place, under the Katy Perry and Lady Gaga poster. I love you and miss you. I am too excited, watching The Hunger Games tonight.”
Reply of a son
Feeling bad that I hadn’t texted something meaningful to my darling son I sent him something I had read too. “How are you my son,” I wrote. “I miss you. Do you know, a boy is someone that a mother loves the most. Little girls hate him. He is truth with dirt on its face, beauty with a cut on its finger, wisdom with smell in its hair and hope of the future with a frog in its pocket. I love you.”
He replied back with one letter of the alphabet. One measly “Y” to my emotional fatherly outpourings. That and an emoticon. I wanted to fly to Mumbai and hang him upside down till he looked liked a silly red faced emoticon himself. But I didn’t, instead I just smiled.
Both replies made me feel love for my kids. Whatever they do, as long as they are happy it makes me happy.
If you want to survive life, it’s best to begin to respect the gift of love right now.
Whether I like it or not, my life has also been in constant play with what the world calls “Success”.
Success is a wonderful thing, but it tends not to be the sort of experience that we learn from. We enjoy it, perhaps we even deserve it. But we don’t acquire wisdom from it. And maybe that’s why it cannot be passed on either – me being successful does not mean my children will also be. No matter how much ever I teach them what I did in my life and even if they follow it to the letter.
So I feel that talking about how to become successful is a waste of time. Instead, let me tell you very honestly whatever happened to me happened because I have always been terrified of failure. I don’t want as much to succeed as much as I don’t want to fail.
I come from a very normal lower middle class family. I saw a lot of failure. My father was a beautiful man and the most successful failure in the world. My mother also failed to stay with me long enough for her to see me become a movie star. We were quite poor actually and let me tell you, poverty is not an ennobling experience at all. Poverty entails fear and stress and sometimes depression. I watched my parents go through this several times.
At an early age after my parents died, I equated poverty with failure. I just didn’t want to be poor. So when I got a chance to act in films it wasn’t out of any creative desire that I did so. It was purely out of the fear of failure and poverty.
So I believe the true path to success is through the fear of failure. If you aren’t scared enough of failing, you are unlikely to succeed. It’s not pleasant to fail, it’s tough. All of us experience it. You will too if you haven’t already. Use it to succeed.
Here’s how I have done so:
1. Firstly, it’s not the absence of failure that makes you a success – it is your response to failure that actually helps to buffer the reverses that you experience. I personally have one response to failure – pragmatism – a recognition and belief that if one approach does not work, then the other will or might.
2. Failure also gives me an incentive to greater exertion – harder work, which invariably leads to later success in most cases.
3. Repeated failure has taught me to stop pretending I am someone else. It has given me the clarity to stick to the things that really matter to me instead of distracting me from my core.
4. Failure also gets you to find, who your real friends are. The true strength of your relationships only gets tested in the face of strong adversity.
5. Overcoming some of my failures has made me discover that I have a strong will and more discipline than I suspected. It has helped me have confidence in my ability to survive.
Failure is an amazing teacher. There is a well-known story of a very successfull man, who was asked the secret of his success. “Right decisions,” he replied. “How do you get to know how to make right decisions?” came the follow-up question. “Experience,” was the answer. “Well, how do you get experience?” asked his interrogator. “Wrong decisions,” he replied. So do fail and it’s alright to fail.
You have to know and learn that life is a not just a check list of acquisitions, attainments and fulfilments, your qualifications and CVs don’t really matter. Instead, life is difficult and complicated, and beyond anyone’s control. The humility to know this will help you survive its vicissitudes.
My hope for all of you is that you retain a lifelong love of learning, that you never cease to dream exciting and inspiring dreams, and when you fail, you fail well enough to succeed the next time. Don’t be afraid of being afraid, be afraid of not facing your fears and failures.
So remember, you are fortunate enough to be a funambulist – who has an amazing set of punching bags – cherish them. And failure is your fiendish friend, keep him close, and don’t take no shit from anybody.