The Lessons I Learned From Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is still in my top 5 favorite movies of all time. Classic. If you have never seen it, get it now.

Before all the “scholars” out there get all wadded up, yes, I understand that it’s just a movie. However, it’s a great movie that makes a whole lot of sense. Smart folks take wisdom where they find it. Just keep reading.

It’s the story of two people really, Forrest and Jenny. Forrest is “not a smart man” by his own account. He ends up with a very remarkable life, pretty much by accident. Jenny, however, is determined to have a significant life of fame and fortune. Jenny hates her past, constantly struggles with bad memories and ends up in one bad place after another. Forrest just does what he is told and great things happen.

Now, don’t even think that I am suggesting we all be good little robots and do everything we are told. I am suggesting that Forrest Gump was a lot smarter than anyone thought because he understood and lived by a simple principle……

Be where you are.

That thought has tormented me. Mainly because it’s really difficult for me to focus all my energy and attention on any one thing. But, he understood the power and value of being able to be completely involved in whatever he did. He was not driven by ambition. He had no hidden agendas.

He didn’t pretend to like people. He didn’t waste time with people who didn’t care about him. He was completely loyal to the people who mattered. Jenny was the only girl for him.

Throughout the story, Jenny comes and goes constantly. She can never stay still for very long. She feels she has to keep moving. The life she wants is out there, somewhere. If one place isn’t perfect, she keep moving. Never satisfied. Never committed. Craving freedom, but trapped in a life she doesn’t want. She is always surrounded by losers and leeches. People who have her around for their amusement or benefit, not for her.

Nobody is there for her… Except Forrest. He never gives up on her. No matter what she does, where she goes, who she gives herself to; he is still waiting for her. She is always his girl.

Forrest gets attacked by bullies when he is a kid, Jenny tells him to run. He takes off, breaks loose of the braces on his legs and finds out he can REALLY run. He is fast. But the doctor had crammed him into leg braces to “fix” him. Because Jenny gave him that push to run, he found out he was capable of something even he though he couldn’t do. That push to run ends up being a huge part of his life, taking him to college, keeping him and others alive during a war and crossing the country about three times. He just listened to someone who mattered, took their advice and did it.

He is not afraid to fight. If something is wrong or Jenny is in trouble, he is all in. Not taking a lot of time to consider it or pray about it. Jump to action immediately.

He can take criticism and adjust. He doesn’t go into depression every time his life takes a turn. He isn’t constantly looking for that bigger and better deal.

He understands that this is his life. Right now. He is living it. It’s not coming tomorrow. It’s not about waiting on something to happen before he can be content. He is living every day of his life.

He knows who he is. He knows how people see him. He knows they talk about him. He knows that he has limitations. He is not spending his life trying to become “somebody” or prove himself. Not bad for someone who is “not a smart man.”

This is the lesson I learned from that movie. Be where you are. Be involved in your life. Commit yourself to the life you have and the family you have. Stop waiting for your life to show up. You have your life.

If it is bad, adjust where you have to. Don’t live in misery, but understand, if it’s misery, you are probably bringing on yourself. Constantly chasing money or bigger homes or faster cars is not going to make your life good. It just steals precious time you could be spending with people you love and doing good stuff. The number one deathbed regret is working too much, not enjoying life.

Seriously. This is your life. Stay connected to family and friends. Spend time with your wife and kids. Quantity time has a great chance of creating quality time. Be involved in your life. Be here today. Stop chasing or waiting for something that doesn’t matter.

Be where you are.

All of that was just a cool story until my world fell apart. Once I started the counseling with Joel and Kathy, I understood a few things about myself for the first time.

Don’t act surprised, but I gravitated towards being rebellious and obnoxious. Seriously. I had a defiant streak in me a mile wide. My dad will still tell you, the best way to get something done is by telling me it can’t be done. My whole life, I felt obligated to challenge everyone and everything. I was hard wired to argue and constantly prove everyone wrong. I always had to find a better way to do everything and prove how smart I was. It was almost impossible to teach me anything.

Once I started counseling, it was like God spoke to me very quietly. “You should probably just shut up and listen.” Not an audible voice, just something that wasn’t the normal voices in my head. Something telling me that they had answers that I needed. Something telling me that, for once in my life, I needed to just do what I was told.

Kathy said it the best. “Everything you know and believe has gotten you the life you have. Our marriage is wonderful. Maybe you should just listen.”

Ok. So I did. She was right. I just went “Gump” for a while and everything started to change.

Some of you guys are as bad as I was. You don’t want anyone’s advice, you want to figure it all out for yourself. You are determined to make your own mistakes and man enough to take the consequences. You are perfectly content to waste your life and ruin it for your family, just to have it your own way. Yeah. I know how that mindset works. Get over it.

Stop chasing the butterflies for a while. Quit assuming that everything might be your purpose and destiny. Let things fall away if they aren’t making life better for your family. Learn to be content and not always fighting for more. Relax.

I found my life by losing it. Once I quit pushing to make my life matter, I found out that it already did. Once I made my wife my first priority, she helped me become what I should have been twenty years ago. The life we have right now is great. I could have had it before, if I was willing to listen to her and just be with her. There’s a lot of freedom in that. It’s better to focus on her and the kids. It’s better to just be a family. It’s better to be with them, than folks who don’t appreciate you. It’s better to just have a job and not need to search for purpose within it. Really. Be Forrest for a while, not Jenny.

Be where you are.

If you haven’t seen it, CLICK HERE.

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