Nora Ephron, wise words and lessons learnt

Posted: 5 July, 2012 in inspiration
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The radio has been flooded with tributes to the wonderful writer Nora Ephron.

One of the interviews I heard opened my eyes to what kind of writer, and person, she was and reasons I admire people like her.

It wasn’t just because of her quick wit. It wasn’t just because of her versatility – she wrote for newspapers & magazines, she wrote essays, screenplays, and books.  She also directed and produced. It wasn’t just because she was a talented writer whose contribution to pop culture will never be forgotten.

It was because she was so sure of herself. What she wanted and what she believed were freely expressed. She stuck up for her beliefs and she defended sometimes unpopular viewpoints just to get people riled up and involved in the discussion.

In one interview she was asked to list five pieces of advice she wished she’d known when she was younger.  Nora Ephron, without hesitation, listed five things. She didn’t even have to think about it. That amazes me.  I’ve never known anyone to be that sure of anything.  I didn’t even realise people could be that sure and certain of anything.

It got me thinking about what I know to be certain and true.  Words of advice, lessons I’ve learned. After a bit of thought I came up with these:

  1. You can’t do anything to change the past.  Even God can’t go back in time and change what happened so don’t waste time thinking about what could have been.  The only thing to do is learn from it and, if the opportunity comes around again, make a different decision.
  2. Making no decision can be just as harmful as making the wrong decision.
  3. There are people who will dislike (or even hate) you for no reason at all.  There is nothing you can do about it so don’t waste time trying to change their mind. In the movie The Libertine Johnny Depp’s character announces, “Those who do not like you fall into two categories – the stupid and the envious. The stupid will like you in five years’ time; the envious never.”
  4. Listen to, and trust, your instincts.  Mark Vonnegut wrote “I don’t care how much you trust the people around you, trust your own senses more.”  I have always found that when I’ve gone against my instincts things have turned out badly.  When I listen to my instincts, I have never regretted it.  I heard someone say once that prayer is your way of talking to God and your instincts are God’s way of talking to you. You just need to listen.
  5. Be yourself.  This is probably my best advice but also the hardest for me to live by.  Dr Suess said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  I first read this about 20 years ago and I knew the truth of it even then.  There is so much pressure to be someone I’m not, to agree with things I don’t agree with, to follow the leader, even when the leader is clearly wrong, to blend in rather than stand out. Every time I do this I move a little further away from who I really am. I’ve learned that who I really am is not so bad and I’m proud to be able to say that today.  Every time I step out of the shadow of someone else and let myself be seen I get stronger and more confident in who I am. And less likely to care about those who don’t matter.

While I wasn’t able to fire these off as quickly as Nora Ephron did in her interview, it was good to take some time to think about the lessons I’ve learnt and what these lessons mean to me.  It also showed me how much more I have to learn. As I leave my comfort zone and take on more experiences this list will grow.

And so will I.


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