Achieving Greatness

November 5, 2015

Summer time in Bethel can be a bit slow.  It’s beautiful and I love living here, I really do, but sometimes you’ve gotta get a little bit creative in order to find fun things to do.  So in early August, a little sick of my “eat, sleep, train” routine, I jumped into a stick shift Subaru Outback, (which I was still learning how to drive) and lurched my way down to Waterville Maine, a nice little town just a couple of hours away.  My purpose?  To watch a movie.  I know, that sounds a little ridiculous, but our movie theater was going on its fourth year of being closed, and let me again stress, I was very bored.  The film that I drove all that way to see is called “Listen to Me Marlon.”  It’s a feature length documentary about the life and work of Marlon Brando, narrated with the help of dozens of archived audio recordings from Marlon’s personal tape recorder.  I don’t normally enjoy documentaries, but when I first saw this trailer I was at a loss for words.  There was just so much emotion packed into such a short video.

The film showed in this big beautiful opera house right on the Kennebec river, and when I walked through the door, before I could even show him my ticket, the attendant asked, “Are you Andrew Siegel? You can head right inside.”  Could this man read minds?  Did he recognize me as the famous movie director that I am?  It didn’t take long after I sat down to realize that he probably knew who I was for being the only person in the entire theater under the age of 65 or so.


The film was an “emotional roller coaster” as they say.  But as I left the opera house one line was stuck in my head: “Since I don’t do anything else well, I might as well put all my energy into being as good an actor as I can.” That got me thinking about greatness.  How is greatness achieved?  Why do some people find success and others don’t?


These question seems to be particularly relevant to my classmates right now.  With a third of the school year gone in what seems like just a flash, as seniors we’re stuck wondering: “What kind of mark am I going to leave on the world after I leave Gould?”


I suspect the answer to the question “How is greatness achieved?” has quite a bit to do with single mindedness, and I also suspect quite a few liberal arts graduates are going to disagree with that statement, but hear me out.  Finding true success, and I mean real, certifiable greatness, requires an individual to go on dogged pursuit after one particular goal.  The question you have to ask yourself is: “What is my goal?”  I’ve talked to quite a few people who don’t feel like they’re any good at anything, and there have certainly been times when I’ve felt the same way.  Mr. Leach did an assembly yesterday about channeling various pop culture icons, and I’m going to mimic him for a moment.  To those of you who don’t feel like you’re any good at anything, channel your inner Marlon Brando.  Find something you love that you’re willing to chase down.


The television show I’m going to recommend for you this week is one of my personal favorites, and although it may not be for the faint hearted, the story telling is spectacular and it’s beautifully shot.  But maybe I’m just a sucker for westerns.  It takes place in the late 1800s at the front of the transcontinental railroad, and if you dig that time period as much as I do, you’ll probably dig this show.  It’s called “Hell on Wheels.”





3 Responses

  1. Avatar Grandma Hoeh says:

    You’ve done it again! Marlon was certainly good at what he did, and quintessentially single-minded. Thanks for your insight.

  2. Greg Gilman Greg Gilman says:

    Ah, Waterville, my old stomping grounds. Was this part of the MIFF? I think we should try to enter a film this year if they still do the Maine Filmmakers Forum.

    Thanks for the “Hell on Wheels” tip. I’ve been meaning to check it out. Might be binge-worthy while I’m hanging out in Davidson this weekend.

  3. Jay Riley Jay Riley says:

    Wow, Andrew, connecting your insight about Brando’s thinking with where you seniors are in your lives is an apt challenge for you and your ‘mates. Likewise, it’s inspiring for the rest of us too… maybe even daunting. Thank you!

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