We didn’t meet him in the middle of a triumph. Or on the verge of success. We didn’t get our first glimpse into the life of Forrest Gump while he was on a grand adventure, rescuing a damsel, winning an award, or overcoming a villain.
He didn’t wear a superhero costume, have a catchy nickname, or dominate a room. He wasn’t popular, understood, or even acknowledged, most of the time.
He was no one. And that’s exactly where we met him: in a life disregarded.
In 1994, this young boy from Greenbow County took us on a journey through history, geography, and that little exclusive island we like to call “the human heart.” Forrest taught us to rethink our notions and redouble our efforts. It’s been 20 years ago since his concise outlook and unquenchable spirit taught us the secrets to a happy life. And the Gump philosophy is as relevant now as its ever been.
Here’s what we learned:
“Now, you wouldn’t believe it if I told you, but I can run like the wind blows. From that day on, if I was going somewhere, I was running.”
1. Focus on your strengths.
Forrest, like everyone, had shortcomings. His, in fact, were impossible to hide. Instead of seeing only what he wasn’t, he focused on what he was. And he was a fast runner. Really fast. Faster than the bullies. Faster than the bullies’ car. Faster than his disability. Running was his strength. And that’s why he found every excuse to use it.
“Now for some reason, I fit in the army like one of them round pegs. It’s not really hard. You just make your bed real neat and remember to stand up straight, and always answer every question with ‘Yes, drill sergeant.’”
2. Keep it simple.
Forrest didn’t ponder problems for long. Instead, he found the simplest solutions and then acted. Every time the problem or challenge occurred, he repeated this response. Find the simple solution. Act. He didn’t know it, but he was exercising Occam’s Razor. Oh, Forrest. You brilliant philosopher you.
“Bubba was my best good friend. I had to make sure he was okay…And on my way back to find Bubba, well there was this boy laying on the ground. I couldn’t let him lay there all alone and scared the way he was, so I grabbed him up and run him out of there. And every time I went back looking for Bubba, somebody else was saying, ‘Help me, Forrest, help me!’”
3. Start wherever you are.
Forrest wanted to save his best good friend. That was his ultimate purpose for plunging back into the battlefield. But there were other tasks to complete first. Even though he never lost sight or wavered from his ultimate objective, he faithfully did what was before him, even when it meant running in the opposite direction of where he wanted to go.
“The only good thing about being wounded in the but-tocks…is the ice cream. They gave me all the ice cream I could eat.”
4. Find the good in every situation.
Forrest didn’t enjoy being shot in the butt. Who would? But the pain of the bullet wasn’t the biggest issue. As a man who loved to run, he was suddenly immobile. Life had taken away the one thing that had been his success. He could have allowed that to defeat him, but, then, that just wouldn’t be Forrest. Instead, while waiting for his difficult circumstances to change, he chose to focus on a positive. Even a simple one. Even if it was only an ice cream cone.
“So I started playing it all the time. I played ping-pong even when I didn’t have anyone to play ping-pong with. The hospital’s people said it made me look like a duck in water, whatever that means. Even Lieutenant Dan would come and watch me play. I played ping-pong so much, I even played it in my sleep.”
5. Give everything everything you’ve got.
Forrest didn’t look at ping-pong as a ticket to fame. Or money. Or recognition. He played ping-pong because he loved it. Because it was what he could do after his injury. And whatever he did, he was going to give it everything he had.
Forrest’s momma always had a way of explaining things so that he could understand them, and he had a way of explaining things so that we could understand them. Next week, we’ll share the rest of Gump’s wisdom in part two.
You won’t want to miss it. These two Thought Particles go together like peas and carrots.