Since the death of Leonard Nimoy, there have been many roundups of quotes of his, or those of Spock, the Star Trek character identified with him. But Nimoy the man--former cab driver, actor, photographer, writer, philanthropist, father, husband--was, for my money, infinitely more interesting. He saw a lot, lived a lot, and learned a lot. Here are five lessons that are good reminders for anyone.

Don't get discouraged

Early in his adult life, Nimoy was a cab driver at night in 1956 to support his wife and child while looking for work as an actor in Hollywood during the day. One day he was sent to pick up a fare that happened to be the junior senator from Massachusetts, John Kennedy. As part of a discussion during the trip, Nimoy mentioned that he was a struggling actor. Kennedy said, "Just remember this: There's always room for one more good one." Be in whatever game it is to be good at what you're doing.

Embrace your background

Ultimately, your life up until now is the material you have to work with to create your future. Nimoy always embraced the spirit of his orthodox Jewish upbringing. It helped him in an early stage role and was the basis of what became an iconic image of modern entertainment. The Spock Vulcan salute was a rabbinical blessing he remembered from his childhood, with the shape echoing the Hebrew letter shin, which in that case stood for the Shekhinah, or spirit of God. For some, looking to the past might be more painful or something that they might want to avoid. But you can't, so you might as well make use of it.

Do more of what you love

Nimoy was something who worked in many areas of art. He was an actor and teacher of acting. He directed and wrote. A childhood interest in photography eventually became a professional vocation. Some people joke about his 1967 album of "space music," trading on the Star Trek name, but Nimoy was serious about performing and did a lot of local touring of small spots, state fairs, and local TV appearances. He was successful in a large number of these ventures, but more importantly, he got out there and did it. How many potential regrets had he erased?

There's always a next chapter and you have to prepare

When he did shift into photography in a serious way, Nimoy wasn't haphazard and didn't count on his growing fame to ease the way. He entered UCLA and formally studied the subject. Improv and spontaneity have their place, but getting the groundwork right lets you manage them with confidence and knowledge.

Remember other people

In the end, does it matter how much money or fame you have? We all die and what ultimately matters are the connections we make with others. Last fall, mentioning politics on Twitter, Nimoy wrote: "I turned off the talking politicos. Too much jabbering at each other. Not enough care about humans." He devoted money and time to charities and social movements he thought were important. Just weeks ago, he remembered the birthday of DeForest Kelley, the actor who played Bones, the doctor on Star Trek: "De Kelley born this day. A friend, a gentle man. For his memory."

May we all remember and learn from the likes of Leonard Nimoy and the many examples of humanity and lives well spent that are just as important, even if less well known.

Published on: Mar 2, 2015
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