12/21/2011 – It’s a State of Mind: Lessons on Overcoming Adversity from the Muppets! Yep, those Muppets!
“They’re not quite mops, they’re not quite puppets but man are they funny.” - Homer Jay Simpson.
Like many people from my generation, I grew up adoring the Muppets. They were cute, they were funny, and they could put together one heck of a variety show. The celebrity guests were a really cool bonus.
Every Holiday season my wife and I rewatch many childhood classics: among them are a Muppet Christmas Carol and a Muppet Christmas. Both are awesome in their own way and for us, anyway, have a rewatchable charm that many childhood films do not. But alas, this is not a film review. There are tons of those out there and I am by no means an expert on these awesome creations. No, this is a brief review of Muppetism. A simple but powerful ideology that (in my opinion) stresses four principles: Teamwork, Diversity, Fun and Attitude.
Let us begin.
- Teamwork. The Muppets face many challenges from things going wrong backstage, to celebrities or performers not being around when needed, to tyrannical billionaires trying to buy and demolish their old theatre because it sits on large oil reserves. Not only do they work as a team to achieve the common goal but they are ultra-supportive. Fozzy’s comedic routines don’t always go well but they keep giving him shot after shot. No matter what the problem is, the Muppets always find a way to come together and overcome their challenges as a cohesive unit. Sure they have their tiffs and disagreements but they always pull through in the end. This is partially a byproduct of the next principle:’
- Diversity. Pigs loving frogs, international culinary experts, intellectual athletes, biracial general managers, wise-cracking rats, whatever the heck Gonzo is and so on and so forth. They all look different; have different backgrounds, and different motives. None of that matters though because they accept each other for who and what they are. There is no better metaphor for this than the Muppet band led by Rolph. I mean look at them (see photo below) if that’s not a diverse group of people I don’t know what is. The best part is, these “different” people come together and make some of the catchiest and sweetest music this side of Muppetdom!
- Fun. Life is tense and full of twists and turns. Sadly, bad things do happen to good people but one of the keys to keeping our sanity and persevering is keeping a sense of humor. This is what I love about the Muppets: they always find ways to have fun. They don’t take themselves too seriously even when you think that they should. You have to be able to laugh some things off or at least escape into a world that gives you a good chuckle. The Muppets have turned this into a fine art. Let us learn from their frolicking wisdom.
- Attitude. This is the most important aspect of Muppetism. I read an interview with Jason Segel on how he came to be the driving force behind the recent Muppet movie. At one point in the article, Jason was asked what challenges did he have in writing for the Muppets. One part of his answer really stuck with me. Segel stated that certain jokes had to be rewritten because they made reference to the Muppets not being real. Although the Muppets break the fourth wall and poke fun at their shtick, the one thing they never do is refer to themselves as puppets, made of felt etc. Their mindset is that they are a frog, a dog, an eagle etc. When you request an interview with Kermit, you are in fact interviewing Kermit and not his puppeteer.
What a great metaphor! One of my core values is that “disability” is a state of mind, and not a diagnosis. Much like a Muppet, I don’t see myself as “disabled” and definitely do not like the term. I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking and having the right attitude. I am not a fan of labels- especially when they are imposed on us by others. Muppets say “I ain’t no puppet, I am a large and very stately Eagle who delivers the news.” What is apparent on the outside means nothing to them and because of that they go out and achieve what they want. That’s the frame of mind we need to have.
I’m not “disabled;” I’m Paul Artale and that’s all I need to be. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go. You see it’s time to play the music and it’s time to light the lights…..I sure that you can figure out the rest.