As many regular readers to my blog know, I am a film fanatic and believe motion pictures, as with any art form, have the ability to educate the viewer about the human condition and about them self in a way no scientific material or textbook can. The Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous is my favorite picture and one I hold close to my heart for this very reason. For those who haven’t seen it, be warned I will most definitely spoil the story of the film in this post. If you were planning on Netflixing the film tonight, its OK to close this screen for now (I forgive you) as long as you promise to come back here later when you’re done. The movie has several layers; it’s a coming of age drama, a love story, and a love letter to classic rock based loosely on Crowe’s youth. I’m not writing about a nearly fifth-teen year old film to give you a review, rather I had a thought recently regarding the characters in the film I feel we can all use to reach our own goals.
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph
The characters in the film are dreamers, to one extent or another. William’s mother dreams of her son growing up as a respectful grounded and intelligent gentleman. His sister dreams of freedom away from her mother’s over bearing behavior. The fictional band, Still Water, dreams of the fame, and Penny Lane dreams of visiting exotic locations. The film’s main character, William, however, is a different kind of dreamer. While everyone else in the film treats their dreams like a fantasy world they can close their eyes and think about with no real aim in to make it a reality William is actively working towards his goal of becoming a professional music journalist. So what makes William different than all the others in the film?
First and foremost, he’s tenacious. We learn early on the film he has been submitting articles he’s written in his spare time for years to his idol, Lester Bangs. This connection prepares William for his big break, writing an article for Rolling Stone on his new favorite band Still Water. William is intent on getting the article completed, so much in fact he misses his high school graduation while attempting to get interviews with all the members of the band.
Second, he’s not afraid to ask for help. William wrote the aforementioned articles not only to get his work published in Bangs’ periodical, Cream Magazine, but to recruit the journalist as a mentor. This not only led William to start this life changing journey on tour with an up and coming rock band but also served as a support system when he ran into trouble with the piece, later in the film. He also recruits Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson who received an Oscar nomination for her performance, to assist him in getting an interview with the elusive guitar player, Russell Hammond.
He’s willing to endure criticism. William is very much an outsider and always has been in his life. He’s too young, too smart, and at times too naive to embrace the world around him and its limitations. Does he have tough mental armor made of steel and Kevlar? Not at all, he is driven by his goal, amazement with creativity, and passion for music.
He’s not afraid to tell it like it is. Throughout the film William gets distracted by the trappings of touring with rock stars, as I’m sure we all would. The biggest and most charming scene in the film, typifies this perfectly.
At this exact moment, William realizes he is trapped. He’s having a great time, feels like he’s one of the band, and even has the object of his affection, Penny Lane, leaning on his shoulder. It’s a great, feel good scene, one that would probably trap any of us but William is focused on his goal. Several times during the film, when discussions with Penny Lane get a little too serious for her liking, she talks about her dream, going to Morocco. What will she wear ? How will she speak? Until she meets William, however, she has no intention of actually going to Morocco, she just likes to daydream about it. Towards the end of the film, William confront her about her diversionary tactics by loudly proclaiming, “There is no Morocco!”
It’s ironic in a film with characters who seem to be daydreaming about a life better than the one they have, the most grounded person is the kid who has the most impractical sounding goal. The one major point of contention I have about William’s attitude toward his goals is hes too serious. It’s been my experience if one takes their passion too seriously and doesn’t have any fun, they wind up hating it. This seems to be something Penny Lane understood when she said, ” I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriously, ya never get hurt, ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” Lucking, it seem like Crowe picked up this lesson sometime after the events depicted in this film. To recap, here’s what we can learn from Almost Famous and reaching our goals:
- Be tenacious, don’t give up. If it’s important you’ll find a way to do it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a mentor or a college. Everyone needs a leg up sometimes.
- You’re going to have critics. They’re not living your life or paying your bills, you are.
- Tell it like it is- in my experience people often appreciate it when you’re blunt and find your honesty refreshing.
Remember these simple guidelines and work hard towards them every day. Make each interaction and action prove to be one step closer in reaching the finish line. Most importantly, never stop dreaming . This can be easier said than done at times but dreams and ambition are the fuel that drives us towards our future. These ideals will dramatically increase your chances of reaching your goals, whether they be visiting Morocco, losing weight, finding (or forgetting) love, or just being a better overall person.
What are your tips for staying focused on you goals? Let me know in the comments and I’ll gladly respond and reply.
Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. Oh, and like Russell Hammond, I am a Golden God.