Follow Your Bliss

Bliss was a short film made long ago by the filmmakers brining you Stages. It really has nothing to do with the article...except that following Bliss led us to doing lots more amazing work...

Bliss (noun): Complete happiness.  I like the sound of that – COMPLETE HAPPINESS!

What gives me complete happiness is teaching.  I can’t go a day without teaching.  If I am not teaching I fill the void by writing.  Teaching is truly my passion.  It’s my bliss.

What is your bliss?  What gives you complete happiness?  What is that something that when you are doing it your world seems complete?  Whatever it is, do it.  Don’t deny yourself your happiness.

If you have to dance, dance!  If you have to sing, sing!  If you have to act, act!   If you have to scrub toilets?  Well, you know.  (I don’t think there will be too many people standing in line to experience that particular bliss.)

Whatever you have to do in life, do it.  It doesn’t necessarily take training to dance, sing, or act.  You just do it–unlike a musical instrument which demands, from most of us, a certain knowledge before we can “just do it.”  To dance, move around the floor to music.  Simply open your mouth and allow a tune to spring forth and you’ll be singing.  Recite Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be,” speech and you’re acting.  It’s possible your friends or family members will be entertained and delighted by what you’re doing.  I say good for you.  Your doing what your heart tells you to do. You’re experiencing bliss.  You’re having a great time.  However…

If you are like me you will eventually become dissatisfied in “just doing it.”  You will want to be able to do the thing you love with greater skill.  That means becoming accomplished, more competent at your craft.

The harder we practice, the more hours we put into our practice, the more we will understand just how much we want to experience our bliss and how truly great out bliss can be.

Hence, following your bliss can and should put you into the pursuit of your dreams.  Wait, isn’t following your bliss and pursuing your dream the same?  Not really.  Your bliss is the fuel that enables you to pursue your dreams.  Your bliss should give you the drive needed to overcome any obstacle that gives the appearance of standing in the way of you achieving your goals.

* * * * *

I was having lunch with Brad Garrett of “Everybody Loves Raymond” fame.  We were sitting on the veranda of a restaurant in Marina del Rey, California.  The marina was beautiful as was that particular day.  Brad was talking about his new Comedy Club which opened at the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas on March 29th of this year.  He stressed his love for comics and his joy in giving new comics a place to work and grow.  It was then he shared with me an extraordinary story of a young Iraqi veteran, Bobbie Henline.

Bobbie Henline was on his third deployment in Iraq when the event that changed his life occurred.  Outside an Iraqi village on April 7, 2007, a Humvee carrying 5 paratroopers hit a land mine killing four of the soldiers.  The fifth was Staff Sergeant Bobbie Henline.  Thanks to the quick actions of a nearby soldier the flames engulfing his body were put out, but not before he was severely burned on over 38% of his body.

Bobbie returned home in a coma.  Doctors at the Brooke Army Medical Center’s burn unit in San Antonio told his wife Connie that they had no medical explanation for why he continued to live.  As Bobbie struggled out of unconsciousness he claimed later: “A voice was telling me I’m gonna be alright, my family was waiting for me.”

There was more to it than merely surviving.  At that moment he felt deeply and profoundly that there was a reason he’d been given the opportunity to live.  Something he was meant to do, something that would justify his life when the lives of his four buddies had been abruptly ended.

His recovery was long and painful.  The end result was facial disfigurement, the loss of one ear, and the loss of the lower half of his left arm.  It is not hard to believe that during and even after his recovery he had moments of utter despair.

Bobbie Henline was always known for his humor and during these dark times his humor would surface.  He learned how to deal with people who stared at him.  He bought a portable fart machine.  When somebody stared at him, “I’d crank one off and then say, ‘Excuse me.’”  Did it make people laugh he was asked?  “No,” he’d say, “but it made me feel better.”  It was one of his therapist that suggested to him to take his natural sense of humor onto the stage and do stand-up comedy.

Bobbie did just that.  He sought out small comedy clubs and performed in the equivalent of open mike nights.  He began to learn his craft.  When he felt he was ready, and through the recommendation of a friend, he approached Brad Garrett at his club in Las Vegas.  He said it was his dream to perform in a professional club and asked Brad if he would give him a chance.

Brad told me this story as we ate lunch.  Brad said there was no question that he wouldn’t honor this veteran’s request.  “If he failed at least he would have experienced his dream.”  Brad took it a step further and invited Bobbie’s family to witness his performance.  To his surprise and delight, Bobbie was not only funny, but so funny that Brad booked him for a full week of paid performances.

Today, Bobbie is not only performing in comedy clubs, but lecturing at high schools, community groups, and gatherings of veterans as a motivational speaker.  He believes his humor helps other veterans and burn victims.

People often ask Bobbie what they can do regarding severely disabled veterans.  He tells them “Live your life to the fullest.  Do what I’m doing — chase your dreams.” He is telling them to set an example for others.  That is certainly what he is doing.


Some of you may also know the story of A. R. Martinez, the winner of this years Dancing With the Stars.  A.R. is another Iraqi veteran who was burned–over 40% of his body, and disfiguring the left side of his face.  He wanted to be an actor.  He went on to star in the day time soap, All My Children, and was Grand Marshall at this years Rose Bowl Parade.

Are these gentlemen the exceptions or the rule?  There is no doubt that, though these are exceptional men, what they did was the rule.

Chase your dreams with a fervor, driven by your bliss, and discover what you’re able to achieve.

* * * * *

In praise of Brad Garrett

If Brad Garrett had turned down Bobby Henline’s request would Bobbie have given up?

No, Bobbie would have found another avenue to achieve his goal.  But, Brad Garrett did give him a chance.  That says a great deal about this giant of a man.  Physically, we all know how big he is, but it is his generosity of spirit I’m speaking of.  He so loves young comic artists that he has this venue for them to find their dream.  The venue exists for the seasoned professional as well to hone their craft.  It is also Brad’s dream in the near future to open a training center for actors and comics alike to develop a craft.  He is indeed more than just a funny man.  He is a man of many dreams.

Look for Bobbie Henline at your local comedy clubs.  If he is not scheduled to appear, tell the owners Bobbie’s story and ask them to contact this exceptional man and book him immediately.

Bobbie says, “Sometimes it gets to me, the way I look.  I still have those days.  I feel sorry for myself, get mad at everything, sit there and just cry.  I then pull out a picture of the smoking Humvee that changed my life.  I look at it to remind myself I’m here for a reason.  I’m doing the right thing.”

Share your bliss with the world. Become that person experiencing complete happiness and do the thing you love.  It’s the right thing.

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