There’s something beautiful in the death of Gene Wilder.
Not that dying is beautiful. But he kept his final struggles from the world, stating “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”
Of all his characters, Willy Wonka is my favorite. Maybe because he was born from a children’s book. Maybe because the candy is colorful. What child doesn’t want to live in a world that’s completely edible? Maybe because, as I grow older, I understand Wonka’s snarky comments on humankind more and more.
This is one of those celebrity deaths that will bother me for a while. But, because he wouldn’t want the world to be sad, tonight I’ll watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and remember what he taught me about success.
1. All it takes is Pure Imagination.
Without imagination, there is no forward movement. Goals don’t drop out of the sky, and success is never overnight. Start with a dream, come up with a plan, and never stop moving forward.
2. Be sweet. Be salty. Be balanced.
Sure, the world is better when sugar’s involved. But too much sugar makes you sick. Not enough makes you mean. So move forward with enough sweetness to brighten someone’s day. But bring enough salt to preserve your place in the world, to leave your own flavor, and balance things out.
3. Don’t give up. Your Golden Ticket is out there.
You have to get through a lot of pushy people who will try to interfere on your way to success. Haters gonna hate, right? No worries. As Grandpa Joe said when Charlie asked if he had a chance to win, “You’ve got more, Charlie, because you want it more.” So keep on keeping on, always believe in yourself, and, bonus, you get to eat more chocolate along the way. But remember this, too: Charlie thought the Golden Ticket was lost to him. Several times. Others were winning. He cried himself to sleep. He was miserable. And then, he was a winner. Don’t give up. Your Golden Ticket is out there.
4. Take care of the little people.
Wonka didn’t get to be who we was all on his own. No, he had help. But bigger than that, he felt a responsibility. The Oompa Loompas were more than his workers. They took care of him, and he took care of them. There were plenty of Wangdoodles and Hornswogglers and Snozzwangers and rotten Vermicious Knids out to get them. Going beyond the employer-employee scope, he gave the Oompa Loompas opportunity, safety, comfort, and shelter. Now that’s something to sing about, yah?
5. Don’t be a brat.
There were five Golden Ticket winners. Five kids and their guardians had the chance to inherit the kingdom. But four didn’t deserve it. Charlie didn’t either, truth be told. But Charlie did something the others didn’t: He ‘fessed up. He went to the source, apologized, and tried to make things better. The others laid claim without blame. That is, they took what they perceived as theirs, without consideration of how their acts would affect others. Charlie and Grandpa Joe went to Willy Wonka, returned the Everlasting Gobstopper, and expected to walk away empty-handed. Their sincerity won Willy Wonka over, and won them the lifetime supply of chocolate. See? There’s a reason your momma told you stop smacking your gum!
6. Just roll with it.
Let’s face it: The Chocolate Factory is a magical place but there were some, uh, problems. Like Augustus Gloop going down the river and up the pipe. And Mike TeeVee transmitting himself into tiny particles. And Veruca and Violet with their all-about-me attitudes. Did any of that bother The Candy Man? Not at all. He thought, talked it out, delegated, and moved forward. That’s a recipe for sweet success!
7. Success doesn’t mean selling off the store.
When you find what works, hold onto it. Invest in it, protect it, grow it. But don’t give it up to the highest bidder. Success is a maintenance plan, not a service order.
8. Don’t forget who you are.
Successful people know one thing: Who they are. They learn, grow, change, revert, detour, strive, push, pull . . . But they are always in motion. They may not always know where they’re going, or how they’ll get there.
But they believe in themselves. And their dreams.
And they’re the ones who get the sweet rewards.
Rest in Peace, Gene Wilder. Thank you for giving us the best of Willy Wonka.
And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!