3 Things I Learned From the Ultimate Choose Yourself Story

charlie chaplin

Your dad is an alcoholic. Your mom is mentally ill from syphilis and is institutionalized when you are a child. 

You quit school at the age of 13 and, essentially, join the circus to pay the bills. And ever after, you have to make people laugh to get paid.

You move to Hollywood and after some success you ask for a raise from the movie studio you work for. They refuse you because…that’s what bosses do.

Then you go to another movie studio, make some successful movies, ask for a raise…and they hate you.

No family, no education, bosses that will consistently try to screw you.

So Charlie Chaplin chose himself. With Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and DW Griffith, they formed United Artists, which became on of the biggest movie studios in Hollywood history and also the first studio formed by actors.

They chose their own movies, they created their own success, they picked their scripts, they paid themselves out of profits, which were substantial. Nobody could stop them. They had freedom. They became the most highly paid actors in the world.

And they enjoyed doing it.

Chaplin kept increasing his competence, both as an actor and as a screenwriter, a director, a composer, a businessman, and all aspects of the movie industry.

Every day he focused on his freedom so he could never again be beholden to the people who tried to keep him down, even his fans who often hated him or doubted him.

Even the US, which often was suspicious of him and even banned him. Even the directors and industry that loved him – he never let that love entrap him.

Everyone wants the keys to your self-esteem so they can lock you in your own jail.

Success doesn’t mean money if it causes misery. Success is every day feeling contentment.

Contentment is every day:

  • Improving your relationships
  • Improving your competence in something you love
  • Improving your freedom.

Today I spoke with old friends. I wrote and tried to be creative. I’m improving my relationships with business associates.

I don’t think this out of fear. I do this because it’s how I grow. When I fail to do this, I lose all my money. I lose all my friends. And I lose my self-respect.

I tell my friends, “if you ever see me in the gutter with a needle, please help me.”

Nobody has ever helped me. I have to pull the needle out.

I learn from Charlie Chaplin to take control of every aspect of my creativity and freedom. The jail keepers can never be trusted with my freedom. Only I can.

Charlie Chaplin left us with three great quotes that shows he had the “Choose Yourself” mentality.

Today is Charlie Chaplin’s 125th birthday if he were alive. And so I think about these three quotes that have resonated through time to land right here and how they apply in my life now:

“Nothing is permanent in this world, not even our troubles.”

Eventually if I keep increasing my well-being and competence with the three things I mentioned above, I have always gotten out of the gutter.

“I like walking in the rain, because nobody can see my tears.”

I have to give myself permission to be sad. The last time I cried was…yesterday. And it washes away and a new day begins.

“The most wasted day in life is the day in which we had not laughed.”

This has been a difficult year for me. The only thing that has saved me is laughing as much as possible. I listen to standup comedy all day long.

I’m going to publish this, close the computer, look in the mirror, and laugh at myself.

  • David

    Thank you for writing this.

  • JasonRH

    Excellent post and you are spot on with picking Chaplin as the ultimate choose yourself story. Part of the genius of Chaplin was that he was not just a ridiculously talented actor. As you noted, he also wrote and directed (and I believe edited) most of his films and he even composed the music for his films as well. I think this is a key point as to why he was able to so successfully choose himself. From my perspective, choosing yourself is not just about waking up and saying “I am choosing myself from now on,” but to also develop yourself in a way that choosing yourself becomes the inevitable outcome. In Chaplin’s case, he was so freakishly good at so many facets of what he did that he ultimately held all the power in his own hands. I thought about this while watching the Oscars last weekend. Most of the actors in that audience are rich, famous and good looking, but many of them are still dependent on the system that provides these roles to them. Unlike Chaplin, they are waiting for the roles that come their way each year as opposed to just being able to say, this is the movie I want to make and the role I want in that movie so I am just going to go out there and make it happen. Instead they have to wait for the nod from the Coen Brothers, Spieldberg, Inarritu, etc.

  • karl

    Thanks james , enjoy and look forward to your take on things , choose yourself is amazing keep it up 👌

  • anne tyler

    Hi, James, yes, that Nothing is permanent in this world. but I love my best friend is permanent in my life. I always hope he happily lives in the world. 。。。

  • anne tyler

    Hi, James, please let my best friend know, it is real misunderstanding, it is real misunderstanding. I never want to hurt him, I never want to hurt him. I never want to hurt him. he is my heart, he is my heart, he is my heart…….

  • anne tyler

    Hi, James, at least I can see your tears even if you was walking in the rain…..you said a new day begin, so smile at yourself in the mirror for welcoming the sun to rise. I am your super fan.

  • anne tyler

    Hi, James, the tears washes away and a new day begins. so look in the mirror, and smile at yourself. and laugh at those words hated out of jealousy. Happy every day. ^_^

  • Kelsi

    Wonderful article! I respect you as a creative artist, as well as Mr. Chaplin. His autobiography is utterly captivating. (Though his birthday is actually in April, yes?)

  • Mar162016.J.L.T.H.q

    This post is one of the most painful posts I have read here, another is you alone cry on the floor ……when you have over drunk to come back the room posted around Oct, 2015. 。。。but I know you understand the past is past and encourage yourself every day. Yes, the best heal and excellent work is that NEVER let the such so tragic experiences happen again in your life later. I love you, your words are with your blood and tears; your faith and courage, touch me and inspire me. thank you. Happy every day. :-)