For those of us who are experienced public speakers and radio hosts, it’s not often that we are taken aback or thrown off guard by a guest. Thoroughly researching a show guest and understanding the nuances of personality, we can take pride in our ability to “read” guests and understand their platform and where they are coming from.
Yet, when we had Stephen Tobolowsky, the great character actor on Love University (USA TODAY calls him the 9th most frequently seen actor with over 200 films), we were in for a surprise. Expecting a funny and charming character actor, we discovered an enlightening, humble, loving, and kind teacher of wisdom. A spiritual author with an amazing life story—surviving a gun held to his head for two hours, broken neck in an accident, and triple bypass heart surgery—he inspired and elevated our show with his practical, yet profound wisdom, on how to live the unexpectedly blessed life.
Here are some nuggets of excellence we gathered from Stephen’s appearance on Love University:
*Be Open to Unobserved Miracles: When Stephen broke his neck in an accident, he thought his life was ruined. One day, he asked his wife to move his bench from the patio to the backyard so he could have a different view. Amazingly, he saw things in a more beautiful way—the birds in the trees, the shadows moving across the yard—and then he made an amazing discovery: He saw beautiful parrots in his tree he had never seen before. Then, he remembered an old tale about a pet store that caught on fire 35 years earlier in Studio City (where Stephen lived), and the owner saved the parrots by releasing them into the air. No one had heard about what happened to the parrots until Stephen saw them in his own backyard—living there all this time! By moving his position—frame of mind—he found a “miracle”—something totally unexpected and wonderful that brightened his mind and elevated his spirit.
*Get Rid of the Mental (and Physical Junk): Stephen says his wife has a rule: “If you don’t wear a shirt for two years, throw it away. You’ve changed; it doesn’t fit. Move on.” In the same way, we need to do periodic mental housecleaning and get rid of our mental junk: irrational thoughts (“we’re not good enough”), downward feelings (sadness and regret), and habitual self-defeating behaviors (eating and drinking too much; procrastination, gossiping, obsession with time-wasting activities and non-productive relationships). Once we get rid of the valueless, we find the true value in our lives: affirming thoughts, uplifting emotions, and heathy and productive behaviors and relationships.
*Always Think of Creating Addition, Not Subtraction: After his neck accident, Stephen sank into a depressed state. But then he realized a great truth: “I feel better when I think in terms of addition, even if it’s a small thing.” Stephen realized that if he could change the way he looked at his yard, go on a minor audition, or make a little change in the way he did things, he could feel that he was adding to his life, instead of subtracting (losing) something. It worked. He started feeling more whole, holy, and loving. In the same way, you can think of ways that you can add to your life: Maybe spend 15 minutes a day in exercise, prayer, or meditation. Start a gratitude journal and write down three things you are grateful for every day. Say “hello” and smile to three people you encounter every day, say “I love you” to someone you care about. These little things, when added up, can be big additions in your life and will improve your psychological and spiritual health in the process.
*Realize that Death is Real, and Life is Precious: Facing death multiple times, Stephen enlightened us with the idea that “The idea of death is a wakeup call.” Once someone close to you dies (or when you face a health or life crisis), you realize that you may be next to die, and your time on earth is limited. There is no time to waste. Once you realize this, you are empowered to make the most of every day. Despite fear, weaknesses, and setbacks, you can access your God-given talents and gifts to live a joyful life and give love to others.
*Leave a Legacy: “Kadosh”: Kadosh is a Hebrew word that means “sacred” or “holy.” Kadosh occurs when we pass along our stories of wisdom, courage, suffering, and love to our children and their children (and so on). It also means creating a legacy from our life on earth—something beautiful that will stand after we are gone. After all is said and done, the one thing we have to leave behind is a legacy of love and contribution to our children/loved ones (and generations to come), as well as our spiritual family on earth (friends, neighbors, and even those we will never meet). Live your life every day as if you are leaving a fantastic legacy—a lasting imprint of your time on earth that celebrates the joy, the love, and the wonder of life as you lived it.
Yes, Stephen is an amazing and surprising guest. We loved every minute of it, and learned how to live a fun-filled, loving, and legacy-filled life. Thank you, Stephen. Tune in to Love University for more on THE SURPRISINGLY UNEXPECTEDLY MARVELOUS INTERVIEW: STEPHEN TOBOLOSKY, SPIRITUAL TEACHER AND AMERICA’S MOST BELOVED CHARACTER ACTOR, NED RYERSON IN GROUNDHOG DAY