Book Review: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned” by Michael J. Fox

This is a very short (69-page), easy read book.

Lots of life lessons from Michael J. Fox, one of my favorite actors, who offer answers to this question: “What constitutes an education?”

  • The metaphor of the rock (big things in life), sand (minutiae), and beer (joy with your friends.)
  • Life 101 is an education with plenty of tests and pain that never ends. The education degree may appear to grant you book smart but may or may not have a bearing on one’s success.
  • Absolute rules were not appealing to Michael but it’s something like Parkingson Disease he would have to live with.
  • Learning on the job may be more important than learning from school, especially in economics for a starving actor like Fox in the early years. His love of reading and constant book reading to compare books to their script adaptation made him a great actor.
  • Physics lesson: Fox’s role in the Back to the Future gave him excuses to talk about physics, hoverboard and inertia. But the ultimate experience is his own Parkinson Disease.
  • On political science: Fox talked about his involvement in Obama’s campaign to lift restrictions on stem-cell research imposed during the Bush Era. His strong call for political involvement by all is admirable.
  • On Geography: “Wherever you are, there it is” – wherever you travel, you have to adapt to your new surroundings. Take the time to seek out the excitement of the strange and not the comfort of the familiar. Enjoy yourself, wherever you are.
  • Mentors: Fox talked about his high-school drama teacher, Ross Jones, whose “why not?” phrase awaken in Fox a knack for questioning and an acceptance of possibilities. His grandma’s high hope and regard for him gave him a boost. Of course, his big break came from Gary David Goldberg, who mentored him from the beginning of his successful career. It is a very amiable mentor/mentee relationship
  • Fox characterized his battle with Parkinson Disease as the “graduate school” for the soul. PD is the “perfect metaphor for lack of control” for an actor at the peak of his career surrendering control to it.
  • I particularly like this advice: “Don’t spend a lot of time imagining the worst-case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine you will. And if by some fluke it does, you have lived it twice.”
  • Seize the present. “There is never a better time to celebrate the present. The present belongs to you. No need to fumble with the camera. Let’s others take the pictures. Just smile.
  • Curiosity vs. Ambition: Fox benefited more from curiosity. “For the curious, new clues will await at every turn and may keep pointing toward the chosen destination… Curiosity may have killed that cat, but it saved my ass.”
  • Final word: “Pay attention to what’s happening around you… Remember, though you, alone are responsible for your own happiness, it’s still okay to feel responsible for someone else’s. Live to learn.”

This is a good short book of lessons on life from a person who has gone through so much in his. Michael J. Fox speaks from his heart and authority on living a good life.