“I don’t know. I’m a pretty private person. But I don’t have anything to tweet, or say, or anything.”
In an interview with Esquire, this was how Keanu Reeves responded when asked why he doesn’t have any social media. Despite having “nothing to say,” Reeves has fortunately been quoted countless times on the internet.
Sprinkled throughout these quotes are nuggets of wisdom, experience, and knowledge — giving us a glimpse into how the famous actor ticks. While he may not openly share his thoughts on social media, we can learn a lot about living a happier, more fulfilled life from the message in his quoted words.
1. The Meaning of Life is Family
In an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Keanu was pressed with a question deeply rooted in human psychology. (skip to minute 9 to check it out for yourself)
“What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?” asked Stephen Colbert. On the screen, we see Keanu sit with the question for a bit, blowing out a breath of air. As he stares past the camera, it’s clear that he’s putting deep thought into the question that was abruptly thrown at him.
Then Keanu calmly responds:
“I know that the ones who love us will miss us.”
A simple yet elegant response. What he means is that family, whether blood-related or not, is what makes life truly meaningful. Building relationships, creating memories, loving one another — that’s what life is all about.
The money, the cars, the house s— it’s nice, but human connection is what actually makes life worth living.
Keanu has achieved all the money and fast cars he could ever want. However, he didn’t mention any of it in his response. At the end of your life, you can’t take your money to the grave. But the ones you love, the people you’ve met, and the relationships you’ve built — those will live on.
As he once said, “Money doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ve made a lot of money, but I want to enjoy life and not stress myself building my bank account. I give lots away and live simply, mostly out of a suitcase in hotels.”
2. If You Aren’t Happy, Change It
In 2011, Reeves released “Ode to Happiness,” a grown-up’s picture book that reminds us to make the best of a bad situation. In his own words, he describes the book’s purpose:
“The intent is that if you’ve got the blues and a little melancholia then perhaps laugh. Then you might find it deliciously, horribly funny.”
Although a bit unusual for an actor to release a “grown-up’s picture book,” this is the Keanu Reeves version of “social media.” It’s his own way, this is how he chose to share his message with the people.
“You have to change your life if you’re not happy, and wake up if things aren’t going the way you want.”
The book subtly pokes fun at bad situations and pushes us to cope with life’s inevitable sorrows with humor, rather than sinking deeper into self-pity. Simple yet clever, the book is stereotypical Keanu Reeves.
When life inevitably throws a wrench in your plans, you can either accept it and move on, or you can dwell on that pain. Keanu suggests you accept it, move on, and maybe laugh a bit along the way.
3. Enjoy the Little Things and Be Present
Keanu’s preferred method of transportation is his motorcycle. Not only is it easiest for him, but it also enables him to be fully present and aware of the “now” — an informal style of meditation.
In an interview with The Esquire, Keanu told Johnny Davis, “It’s the physical sensation of riding, the wind, the smell, the sights, the connection to the machine, the living-in-nature.”
“It demands a kind of attention and presentness. It’s also good to go out and think a little bit, so you can get lost in the now. Or you can also kind of reflect.”
If you take a step back, most things in life can be looked at from this perspective. When you bring awareness and mindfulness into any activity, it can be meditative. It can be the perfect activity to forget the stress at work or the yelling kids, and just be. Here and now.
Washing the dishes. Folding laundry. Cleaning the countertops. Scrubbing the shower. Even driving to work.
“Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to take the time out to enjoy the beauty in life.”
While all these activities aren’t as enjoyable as riding a motorcycle, they’re still opportunities to enjoy the little things in life. To be fully present in that moment. To be aware of everything that’s going on right then and there. To temporarily forget any stress or anxiety that’s inedibly running through your head.
4. Hard Times Don’t Define Us
Keanu Reeve’s life has been filled with an incredible amount of tragedy.
At a young age, his father abandoned his family. When he was 23, his best friend, River Phoenix, died of a drug overdose. In 1999, Jennifer Syme, the love of his life, was pregnant with their daughter, but the child was stillborn. And then, 18 months later, Jennifer died in a car crash.
By age 30, Reeves had experienced enough tragedy to last a lifetime. That said, he never forgot the things that happened to him. In an interview with The Guardian, he said:
“I don’t think you ever work through it. Grief and loss, those are things that don’t ever go away. They stay with you.”
Nonetheless, he didn’t let the tragedy in his life define him. He persevered. He pushed on, and he went on to create an incredible life.
“Every struggle in your life has shaped you into the person you are today. Be thankful for the hard times, they can only make you stronger.”
In 1999 he starred in The Matrix, the sci-fi thriller that, according to ABC News, paid him $10 million upfront and earned him a $35 million payday when the film became a hit. Then, in 2014, he became the star of John Wick, a movie about a man who loses his wife and dog and seeks revenge for both losses. The successful three films did more than $580 million in the box offices alone.
All this to say, if you’re going through some hard times in your life, understand that it does not define you. How you handle it, if you push past and persevere — that’s what defines you.
Tragedy and loss are going to come whether you like it or not. It’s how you deal with these things that will ultimately define your life.
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