April 15, 2010
Posted: 03:38 PM ET
Michael J. Fox is an award-winning actor, activist, and New York Times bestselling author. He’s also a high school drop-out who’s earned a Ph.D. in real life. Michael shares his hard-earned wisdom in the new book: A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FUTURE: TWISTS AND TURNS AND LESSONS LEARNED – which is perfectly timed for the graduation season.
LKL Blog: If readers could take away just one thing from your new book, what do you most hope that would be?
Michael J. Fox: Well, it’s that education is great but that if you think it’s going to be the blueprint for you life to follow for a desired or expected outcome, then you’re wrong. Life is really what happens when stuff goes wrong. And you find yourself able to rise to the occasion and learn from new opportunities that come out of losses. It’s just – hang on and enjoy.
LKL Blog: Besides your own, what’s your favorite book and what’s the appeal of it for you?
Fox: Oh, boy. There are so many books that I love. I’m just going off the top of my head here, but probably “All of the Pretty Horses.” Just because McCarthy is such a brilliant writer. There’s a great line in there and I’m not going to get the quote right, but the young protagonist is talking to this woman in Mexico, this older kind of woman, and she said, ‘Whatever it is, you never get it.’ Whatever that prize is, you’re never going to get it. It’s never going to happen because you’ll realize it’s not what you thought it would be.
So it ties into something I learned at one point in my life and that I’ve really taken to heart, which is that your happiness grows in direct proportion to your acceptance and an inverse proportion to your expectations. It’s really about acceptance.
LKL Blog: It’s been said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Do you agree or disagree with that and why?
Fox: You know I quote in the book, I quote [retired basketball coach] John Wooden and he’s great, he says, ‘It’s what you learn after you already know everything that really matters.’ And that’s what it is. I mean, a lot of knowledge is probably worse than a little knowledge because it’s all fluid. I mean, no matter how much you know, expect to learn more and more. And know that your truth may not be somebody else’s truth. So you have to be willing to change the way you look at things and you can learn from other people’s knowledge and it may give you something new.
LKL Blog: You were last on Larry King Live about a year ago, what’s changed in your life since that appearance in terms of your Parkinson’s disease, which in your book you call, ‘the gift that keeps on taking?’
Fox: It’s given me such perspective. I’ve had so many opportunities in my life and Parkinson’s itself has really pushed me in new directions and asked of me things I wouldn’t have had the wisdom to ask of myself. In terms of how I am, I did an interview a few minutes ago, and I was so shaky I could barely speak and get words out. It’s so distinct; it’s like being shaken by a four-year-old. Like when you’re trying to talk and your kid is pulling at your pant leg. But then 15 minutes later, the pills kick in and I’m fine. I can speak and I can think. So it comes back to me that I have to remind people that I can talk lucidly and coherently and that I’m still feeling good. But that’s not my natural state. That’s because of my medication. My natural state, if I let things follow their own course, is that I’d be tremulous, I could be almost frozen, I can have a hard time speaking, have a hard time expressing myself. It’s pretty much the same as it was last year, it’s pretty much the same as it was five years ago.
LKL Blog: Last question. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your parents that you hope to pass on to your own kids?
Fox: So many things. My parents – it was so much different for them than it was for me. My parents grew up in a generation that was born into the depression and grew up during the war. And so you tend to get something from them where they go, ‘This is nothing.’ I mean, they’ve been through a lot. They were risk adverse because they had to be. And you can take that two ways: you can grow up with that same aversion to risk; or you can say I have opportunities that they didn’t have and if I can take up the chances to realize them, it’s worth it.
And so the message they chose to give to me from that was one of courage and one of put yourself out there and enjoy life. And appreciate your family, your friends and those around you. And have respect for people. Don’t judge unless you want to be judged yourself. Go out and celebrate life. That’s what I got from them.
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