What Can Muppets Teach Us?

The award winning 2011 documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey tells the inspirational story of Kevin Clash. It’s moving as it walks you through how a childhood dream, one he never imagined possible, came to life through passion and persistence.

As a child, Kevin was fascinated with the magical world of Disney but his parents couldn’t afford to take him there. He was very curious about puppetry: how they were made; who created them; and who was behind them. He watched and learned from puppeteers. When he was 10 years old, he took the furry lining of his fathers coat and made his own monkey puppet. Clash then began making more puppets and putting on shows for the neighborhood, using a clothing line and blanket. He was teased by some kids at school for “playing with dolls” but puppetry made him happy and he enjoyed making other children smile.

Clash went to schools and entertained children with disabilities. His passion was so powerful that he persevered through a challenging journey that led to him creating the character for Elmo on Sesame Street among many other puppeteer credits, roles, honors and awards. In 2006 Kevin released an auto-biography titled My Life as A Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud. Clash is now Sesame Street Muppet Captain and co-executive producer.

Here are just five take-aways from the documentary that relate to encouraging creativity and ideas that matter to people:

1. Follow your dream, find your purpose and where your passion lies.

2. Understand what motivates people and create what matters to them.

3. Persevere through the obstacles and do what makes you happy.

4. Listen and learn from those who demonstrate mastery (ignore idle criticism).

5. Share your knowledge and encourage creativity within others.

Clash had to create a character around Elmo that would connect with children. He chose to make him represent ‘love’, through kisses, hugs and a caring nature. Clash’s inspiration came from his childhood experience and innocence, and a fascination of how human behavior could be expressed through puppetry in a way that would make people happy.

What inspires you and how will you create an idea that matters to people?

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