Writer Wednesday with Nick Maley

Do or Do Not (book)This week, I have a chance to feature Nick Maley, author of The Do or Do Not Outlook: 77 Steps to Living an Extraordinary Life, which he describes as a little book of big ideas.

Nick is known as “That Yoda Guy” because of his involvement in working on/creating the character Yoda in the original 1979 Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back. He’s got a museum in St. Maarten called That Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit, which is where I met him.

Easily, my visit to the museum and my chat with him is the most memorable part of my trip to the tropics. (He chats with everyone who visits his museum—that’s the kind of person he is). Anyone who knows me (and my dogs, Yoda and Leia) knows that I have an affinity for Star Wars, but what really stands out about my trip there has nothing to do with the sci-fi franchise. When I told Nick I was a writer, he encouraged me to continue with my Corgi Capers series, the first book of which had been published just a few months earlier. Since then, I’ve written five more, with several in the works.

And that encouragement is what his book Do or Do Not is all about. His goal is to encourage others, as others have stepped up to encourage him. He hopes that those who succeed will pay it forward by helping youngsters in the future.

The book is organized as short pieces of advice meant to be read and reflected on one at a time, for busy people—he suggests reading/acting on/reflecting on one per day. Each chapter in the book contains a place for you to write your own goals/reactions related to each chapter, keeping you motivated and on track to find your happiness and success. Nick notes that each day, it’s important to make small steps toward your goal. It’s through successive small steps that dreams are made.

At 13, he was told he was an idiot. At 18, he was teaching at a university.

Nick describes himself as “a kid from a poor family…in a one-room house” that his grandmother rented. He was an only child, playing alone in a house full of adults.

He attributes his father to his love of creativity: an actor and singer, his dad read stories and helped Nick compose poetry as early as age five. Though his mother had difficulties, she helped foster Nick’s imagination by making him costumes or cakes that the family couldn’t otherwise afford. Growing up, Nick fed his imagination through play.

When he started school, Nick struggled against learning disabilities, including dyslexia and ADD, which put him behind in reading—and as a result of his spelling, he failed many exams.

At 11, Nick failed the exam that essentially divided students into those destined for “academic” careers and those destined for manual labor. While he did well content-wise, he always failed because of his spelling.

In his book, Nick tells us to “build on what you have that others don’t.”

In school, Nick followed this advice by getting involved with what he learned from his father—the school plays. By the time he was 15, Nick had produced and directed his own play in response to a teacher who was putting on a play that Nick didn’t think was interesting. At 16, everyone at his school was expected to work, but Nick attended a technical college instead and even started a drama society there.

All of these elements gave him a “certain degree of confidence and independence,” which is something he emphasizes in his book. “If you don’t invest in your impossible dreams, YOU are the one who guarantees that they won’t come true,” he says.

At 17, he took a phone call for his father and ended up getting a job doing makeup for a show at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall, to do makeup using skills he learned from his father. At 18, he took over the theatrical makeup classes his dad had been teaching.

Before long, Nick considered movies. He overcame the obstacle of not having a union card by being persistent, standing outside their meetings for two years until he was known and finally invited to join.

Since then, he has worked on Star Wars, Superman, and other films. He opened his museum in St. Maarten to display movie memorabilia and other amazing finds, such as facial molds (lifecasts) of notable folks from Abraham Lincoln and David Bowie.

Keeping it positive

What makes Nick stand out is his positivity. Nick shares his beginnings because overcoming the challenges in his life helped him to develop his success later in his life.

Negativity is infectious, he warns, and we must be strong to reach our dreams.

“Being able to do something that is fulfilling in life” is important to Nick. He’s been pushing people over the years to achieve their dreams, including inspiring a man with Down Syndrome to win gold in the Special Olympics, inspiring a man in his 50s to go back to school and become a doctor, encouraging an amputee to become a motivational speaker. Nick attributes “positive thinking” to achieving dreams.

“You can’t live an exceptional life by being ‘normal,’” he says. It’s a good reminder to anyone attempting the unique or creative.

The book helps readers deal with adversity, face impossible challenges, and conquer fears, noting that other people’s negativity can be infectious. Accepting other people’s negativity, Nick says, allows the limits of others’ imaginations to limit your life, too. He encourages people not to be afraid of stepping outside of what society deems is normal or acceptable.

“It doesn’t really matter what your dream is,” Nick says. “There’s a kind of formula to achieving whatever that might be.”

In his Little Book of Big Ideas, he sets out 77 steps for how we can live an extraordinary life.

The museum in crisis: “the people who fail are the ones who give up”

St. Maarten endured extensive damage from Hurricane Irma a few years ago. After only just recovering from that, the COVID crisis has shut down the museum’s single source of revenue: tourists. The museum, and Nick’s “Follow Your Star” foundation, through which he encourages others to pursue their dreams, is in danger of closing. Nick is raising funds now through Pateron at www.patreon.com/FYSF  and online sales in order to keep his museum afloat until the tourists return in (hopefully) November.

Because the museum is a non-profit, it is ineligible for loans and other aid in St. Maarten.

If you’re interested in buying his book, his publisher has agreed to sell directly to U.S. customers for $19.95, including shipping. Purchasing directly from the publisher (as opposed to Amazon or a book store) means Nick’s museum gets to keep much more of the proceeds. To order through the publisher, you can contact Nick directly at GETtheBOOK@netdwellers.com.

If you’re interested in Star Wars memorabilia or prints of Nick’s original artwork, you can check out his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/The-Yoda-Guy-Movie-Exhibit-295303327163046/, where he is posting items for sale and for auction. Some of them are one-of-a-kind finds, such as original script pages from Star Wars films. You can also find more items at his online store at http://netdwellers.com/mo/shop/index.html

Nick is not giving up on his museum, and people he has touched over the years are stepping up to support him. If you are interested and able, please consider purchasing his book or sharing this post as a way to help him keep his museum open.

Photo of me meeting Nick Maley about 8 years ago in St. Maarten. Speaking of doing the impossible, I lost 50 pounds since the taking of this picture. Nick is right—anything is possible if you believe ?


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