Life Lessons From Willy Wonka

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.

Willy Wonka: All It Takes Is Pure Imagination.

Willy Wonka: 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.

Willy Wonka: Be Sweet. Be Salty. Be Balanced.

Willy Wonka: 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.

Willy Wonka: You Have More Chance, Because You Want It More.

Willy Wonka: You Have More Chance, Because You Want It More.

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.

Willy Wonka: Take Care of the Little People.

Willy Wonka: 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.

Willy Wonka: Tell Me Again What the World Owes You?

Willy Wonka: Tell Me Again What the World Owes You?

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.

Willy Wonka: Just Roll With It.

Willy Wonka: 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.

Willy Wonka: Don't Sell the Geese Who Laid the Golden Eggs.

Willy Wonka: Don’t Sell the Geese Who Laid the Golden Eggs.

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.

Willy Wonka: We Are the Music Makers, and We Are the Dreamers of Dreams.

Willy Wonka: We Are the Music Makers, and We Are the Dreamers of Dreams.

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!

My Top Ten Disaster Movies

I woke up feeling sick this morning. I mean, really sick. I should have expected it: my dreams for the last few nights have been bizarre. I don’t mean creepy. I mean Willy Wonka meets Flashpoint in an Atlantis-setting kind of weird. Yeah. That kind of weird.

So as I’m sitting here trying to think up something profound to write for today’s post, I’m also inundated with horrible news stories from around the world. Tropical Storm (soon to be Hurricane) Isaac, a plethora of earthquakes, and of course all the political thrills going on.

The news reports and even my Facebook wall read more like something out of a movie. And that is what has inspired this post.

My Top Ten Disaster-Type Movies, in no particular order (except #1):

10.  JAWS. Sure, it’s not a natural disaster in the Mother Nature sense, but what’s more natural than predator vs. prey?

9. VOLCANO. Tommy Lee Jones. The “It Can’t Really Happen Here” syndrome that makes you wonder… what if it did happen here?

8. SUM OF ALL FEARS. Sort of a cross between natural disaster and political thriller. With Ben Affleck. Any questions?

7. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. Either the original with Frank Sinatra or the remake with Liev Schrieber. Not a disaster movie, you say? Maybe… but it’s a great political thriller, so I think that qualifies.

6. KNOW1NG. Who doesn’t love Nicolas Cage, even when he’s rejecting what everyone else seems to know… until, that is, he has no choice but to believe.

5. 2012. John Cusack drives a limo and flies a plane, just to save his family from the end of the world. I call that a tad romantic. Or cheesy. You decide.

4. ARMAGEDDON. Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck (here he is again!) save the world, with a bunch of misfit oil-riggers and a little romance.

3. SIGNS. I guess this one really does fall under the “It Couldn’t Happen Here” category… or could it? Just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean they’re not out there…

2. CONTAGION. Aside from one of favorite reasons being any FLASHPOINT actor (here, Enrico Colantoni), this movie really brings it to the table. Everything, that is, except the vaccine.

1. THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. Sure. You keep making fun of those who speak of Global Warming

*Honorable Mention: THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. While the remake with Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas is outstanding, nothing compares to the original with Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine. A rogue wave, survival of the fittest, and a plausible plotline. If anyone asks, this is why I’ve never taken a cruise.

And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!