Olivia de Havilland just passed away at the age of 104. The tribute to this great movie star in the Chicago Tribune (July 28, 2020) praised her “talent, ambition, and luminosity,” which pretty much says it all. As Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, as Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood, and in numerous other starring roles, she lit up the screen.
She was a standout off-screen as well. At a time when the Hollywood studios locked movie stars into oppressive contracts, de Havilland challenged the system and won. The result of her court victory is called “the de Havilland law” to this day.
Sounds like a life well-lived. That may have been at least in part because of her very clear-eyed vision of what she wanted. At the age of 18, de Havilland tested for a starring role opposite Errol Flynn. She won the role and went on the star with him in six more films. During that screen test, when they were off-camera, Flynn asked her, “What do you want out of life?” She thought for a moment and responded, “I would like respect for difficult work, well done.”
What a great answer! Think about it. She is seeking three goals. First, she wants to be respected. Not adored or feared, but respected. Second, she wants difficult work. Not “Easy Street,” but challenging, demanding work. And third, she wants to do that work well, meeting her own high standards.
My book, Curating Your Life, is based on figuring out your answer to Flynn’s question, “What do you want out of life?” Or in my words, “What is your life’s exhibit about?” What are the meaningful values that will guide your decision-making?
One could do a lot worse than to adopt de Havilland’s approach – “I would like respect for difficult work, well done.” Maybe that’s one of the reasons she lived such a long, productive, and impressive life.
If you’d like to help in figuring out how to direct your energy toward your own meaningful goals, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.